May 25, 2024

Matt Rhule admiring Heinrich Haarberg’s confidence and growth

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Nebraska quarterback Heinrich Haarberg prepares to receive a snap during the fourth quarter against Illinois Friday October 6, 2023 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The sophomore quarterback led Nebraska to a double-digit road victory over Illinois last Friday, and now he’s riding a big wave of momentum heading into the bye-week.

Coach Matt Rhule has been impressed with Heinrich’s Haarberg’s work ethic up to this point. After all, the Kearney native has won three of his first four starts. The Huskers’ win over the Fighting Illini was their first conference victory of the season, and now Big Red Nation can see light at the end of the tunnel.

There’s no denying Haarberg is tough as nails, and he plays with passion. He completed 12 of his 24 passes for 154 yards and an interception in a hostile environment. However, Haarberg adjusted to Illinois’ defense, and silenced the crowd with his mobility. His 25-yard rushing touchdown midway through the second quarter gave the Huskers a 17-0 lead.

“I thought Heinrich handled a lot of things, sometimes he gets a little bit tired with maintaining his conditioning,” Rhule said. “Probably some plays he would love to get back, but he made the big plays when we needed him to.”

The offense is still having turnover issues, and Rhule will try to get a lid on that during the time off. He understands all about growing pains, but remains a strong believer that patience will pay off. It’s obvious Haarberg’s maturation process is looking promising, and the rest of the offense feeds off his energy.

Nebraska led Illinois in yards, first downs, plays and time of possession. Rhule knows that wasn’t by accident. There’s still a lot of issues to clean up, but with Haarberg behind center the Huskers are starting to look postseason bound.

“It’s kind of our process to keep sticking with these guys, and they stick with themselves and start making some plays,” he said. “They’re going to get off that bus tonight knowing they’re good football players.”

Rhule just wants his young signal-caller to keep building chemistry with his receivers, diving deeper into the playbook and continue pushing to make others around him better. Nebraska (3-3) has basically hit the reset button on the season. None of the Huskers’ next three opponents have winning records. The Blackshirts are playing at a high level, and if Haarberg can continue complimenting the defense, Nebraska should win more games.

The six-foot-five, 215-pounder has thrown for 631 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. Not to mention Haarberg is Nebraska’s leading rusher with 352 yards on the ground and three scores. Haarberg may not have the strongest or most accurate arm, but what he lacks in talent he makes up for with moxie.

Performing like a seasoned veteran instead of a wide-eyed underclassman is going to take Haarberg far as the Huskers enter the meat grinder of their Big Ten schedule. Rhule has more trust in him too, and wants everyone, including the fans to rally around Haarberg as he continues to grow.

“Heinrich is getting better everyday, and we do have to continue to work on him finding windows, and getting between windows.”