Hard knocks never seem to stop Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Michigan State meted it out with ferocity on Saturday, and Westerkamp was still moving a little slow at the team's weekly news conference Monday.
''I'm all right,'' he said. ''A little banged up. Took some pretty good hits, but the win definitely made it feel better.''
Westerkamp popped up right away after making a one-handed catch and getting hit by linebacker Darien Harris. The second time the two collided Westerkamp hit the back of his head on the ground and had to go to the locker room for a concussion test.
Westerkamp was cleared to return and made two catches totaling 61 yards at the start of the last-minute 91-yard drive that ended with Tommy Armstrong Jr.'s touchdown pass to Brandon Reilly for the 39-38 upset.
Armstrong has been Westerkamp's roommate for four years, and he said he never doubted the junior from Lombard, Illinois, would come back to make big plays.
''He's not the type of guy who gives up and says, `I'm going to throw in the towel because I've gotten hit too hard or my shoulder's hurting or my head's kind of dinged up from hitting the ground a little bit too hard. If I'm OK to play, if I'm still walking, if I'm able to see, I'm going to keep playing,' " Armstrong said.
Westerkamp, despite missing all but the first minute of the second quarter, finished with a team-leading nine catches for 143 yards. It was his fourth 100-yard receiving game this season, tying a school record.
The win over Michigan State was the first in what Westerkamp and his teammates are calling a three-game season. The goal is to win out to go 6-6 and make a bowl.
''This is a huge win for us. It's extremely motivating for the rest of the season,'' Westerkamp said. ''That's how the guys see it. We'll be extremely focused this week. Another big opponent. Hopefully we'll be able to go in there and handle our business.''
Westerkamp has 58 catches for 801 yards and six touchdowns through 10 games heading into a game at Rutgers on Saturday. He needs 17 more to set the single-season record, and he's within striking distance of becoming the first Nebraska receiver to amass 1,000 yards in a season.
Westerkamp plays mostly slot receiver, which means he often meets up with a linebacker or safety after he makes a catch. When Armstrong leaves his roommate vulnerable with a high pass, the physical toll mounts for the 6-foot, 190-pounder.
''I've watched him go through a lot of pain,'' receiver Alonzo Moore said, ''but he's a tough guy.''
Westerkamp and Armstrong had a good feeling about the Huskers' final possession because they prepped for Michigan State's two-minute defense in practice. The Spartans played zone coverage that left the middle of the field open. With a safety being sucked in to cover the tight end, Westerkamp was able to run freely on a post pattern twice in a row. Armstrong connected with him for 28 and 33 yards.
Westerkamp needed help off the field after the second catch. He had dinged his head again, but felt good enough to raise his arms to ask for more noise as he made his way to the sideline.
''Two great play calls,'' Westerkamp said. ''We just kept fighting, kept driving, and then Brandon had the touchdown there at the end - obviously the play of the game. But it was just a great experience, great moment. This team has been through so much. It was great to have one go our way at the end.''