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Published: Wednesday, 10/24/2012

Huskers’ Burkhead day to day

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead takes the hand off from quarterback Taylor Martinez against Northwestern on Saturday in Evanston, Ill. Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead takes the hand off from quarterback Taylor Martinez against Northwestern on Saturday in Evanston, Ill.
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Bo Pelini says he hasn’t seen Rex Burkhead get discouraged.

Frustrated, yes. That’s to be expected when a player incurs his third knee injury of the season.

Despite one of his top position players facing a string of health-related setbacks, Nebraska’s fifth-year coach said he and his staff aren’t concerned about the senior running back losing confidence during this stretch.

“Rex is a strong-minded kid,” said Pelini, who was a free safety at Ohio State from 1987 to 1990. “That’s the last thing we’re worried about, what his mindset is. He’s a strong young man and someone who doesn’t let a lot of things bother him.

"He’s a little bit frustrated with his health, and he’s handled it very well.”

Pelini said at the start of the week that Burkhead was day-to-day as far as his availability for Saturday’s game against No. 20 Michigan (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) in Lincoln, Neb., and did not elaborate on Burkhead’s status during Tuesday’s weekly Big Ten teleconference.

In four games this season, Burkhead, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2011, has run for 392 yards and three touchdowns on 43 carries, but injured his left knee early in Saturday’s 29-28 win at Northwestern.

Burkhead strained a ligament in his left knee in Nebraska’s season opener against Southern Mississippi and missed two games, then re-injured his knee Oct. 6 at Ohio State.

If Burkhead is not available, the Huskers will turn to Ameer Abdullah. In six games this season, including two starts, Abdullah leads the Huskers (5-2, 2-1) with 514 yards and seven touchdowns on 86 carries.

“I think he [Burkhead] is as good a back as we have in this league, and I think Abdullah’s a little different when you look at running style, which is a compliment to what they’re doing offensively and to their offensive line and personnel,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

Could the absence of Burkhead immediately affect or alter Nebraska’s running game, which leads the Big Ten with 279 yards a game?

Probably not. Abdullah stepped in for Burkhead last weekend and ran for 101 yards on 19 carries against the Wildcats.

“He’s a very good football player,” Pelini said of Abdullah, a sophomore. “He runs hard, runs inside and outside. He can do a lot of different things, and he is an explosive back.”

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison agreed with that assessment.

“He’s more of an edge guy,” Mattison said of Abdullah.

“He can get on that edge and go. Abdullah’s broke some big plays for them, and he’s going to be a fast guy we’re going to have to contend with.”

RB SENTENCED: Michigan tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint was sentenced Tuesday in Washtenaw County 14-A4 District Court in Saline. Toussaint pled guilty to operating a vehicle while visibly impaired in August, stemming from a July arrest for drunk driving in Ann Arbor.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Toussaint, 22, must pay nearly $1,500 in fines and court costs and is required to attend 10 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the next 120 days. Toussaint is also required to undergo random drug and alcohol testing for the next 90 days.

Michigan’s coaching staff suspended Toussaint for the team’s season opener Sept. 1, a 41-14 loss to Alabama in Arlington, Texas.

Michigan defensive end Frank Clark’s sentencing hearing was adjourned until Nov. 13.

Clark pled guilty in September to second-degree home invasion, a felony charge, stemming from his June arrest for stealing a laptop from a dorm room.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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