Despite win, Matt Rhule indicates Nebraska’s starting quarterback uncertainty to continue

Behind another strong performance from sophomore quarterback Heinrich Haarberg, the Huskers pulled out a second-half victory over Louisiana Tech, 28-14.
Published: Sep. 24, 2023 at 12:40 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -For the second-straight week, the Huskers picked up a win with Heinrich Haarberg as their starting quarterback.

After Saturday’s 28-14 win over Louisiana Tech, Matt Rhule said that QB Jeff Sims (ankle) could have started but would have been limited in his run game. Haarberg had no such limitation.

The dual-threat sophomore rushed 19 times for 157 yards and ran for a 72-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach for the Bulldogs. Haarberg did not put up as gaudy of numbers with his passing game, completing eight of his 17 throws for 107 yards, including a 29-yard bullet to Thomas Fidone for his lone touchdown pass.

“He did a good job,” Rhule said. “He executed the play calls. Some things he didn’t. Some things he didn’t execute. The great thing about Heinrich is he’s trying to get better. We’re coaching him through it, but for the most part I thought he managed the game pretty well, but he, like all of us, like me, all of us need to continue to get better.”

“It was a little bit of déjà vu from last week,” Haarberg said of practice leading up to Saturday’s game. “Jeff [Sims] took a couple more snaps than he did last week, but I still took all the snaps that I could and acted like I was the starter, and prepared like I was. I think that’s the key with this situation. Everyone is trying to uplift each other, and every chance you get you need to make the most of it. When [Rhule] gives you those first or second team reps, he expects you to prepare like you are going to be the starter.”

The Sims-Haarberg quarterback purgatory isn’t over yet. Rhule said they plan to start whoever gives his team ‘the best chance to win’ against Michigan.

The Huskers don’t have that luxury at running back after losing Gabe Ervin Jr. and Rahmir Johnson to season-ending injuries last week. But making his first start since 2022, Anthony Grant showed why he earned the starting job back.

After a stagnant first half, the Huskers opened the third quarter with a nine-play, 85-yard scoring drive. Grant accounted for 76 yards on the drive and rolled into the endzone for his second touchdown of the season. The senior finished with 135 yards on the day, but insists the best is yet to come.

“This isn’t my best game,” he said. “Despite everything, I feel like there’s more in store for us. More in store for me.”

There is plenty that this team can be proud of. In surrendering just 46 rushing yards, the Huskers defense continued their streak of four-straight weeks allowing 60 yards or less to opposing run games. The Huskers have turned the ball over just once in their last two games after coughing it up four times at both Minnesota and Colorado.

But with second-ranked Michigan coming to town, the Huskers know the margin for error is microscopic.

“We can’t turn the ball over and we have to get turnovers.” DeShon Singleton said. “That’s the only way we’re going to be able to win the game. We’ve just got to go out there and play our game.”

“We found a way to get the win,” Rhule said. “I’m glad we did some of the things that we believe in, in terms of taking the ball away and running the football, but we just have to hit overdrive as a team.”

Nebraska hosts No. 2 Michigan Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.