"I almost had 100. That one yard, I didn't make it happen," Buckley said about his breakout game against Iowa. "I'm not going to lie, I was a little disappointed when I saw I didn't get that extra yard. It's just a little bit extra I have to do next game."
A little bit extra from Stephen Buckley is the most promising news coming out of Northwestern this week. Though the offense continues to struggle, the redshirt freshman seems to have carved out a niche—going for a combined 157 yards and a touchdown in the last two weeks. Against the Hawkeyes, Buckley was the most efficient player on the field, totaling 99 yards on just 17 touches. With Venric Mark and Treyvon Green suffering from injuries and Mike Trumpy fumbling twice Saturday, Northwestern hopes he can replicate the performance at Nebraska.
But Buckley is far from a fill-in. His low frame and 6.1 yards-per-carry average in conference play is encouragingly similar to Mark, who he'll likely replace next fall—barring a medical redshirt. In what's been relegated to a washout season, the Wildcats still have plenty of promise in evaluating Buckley as a starting back for 2014 and beyond.
"Venric is definitely a good coach," Buckley said Wednesday. "He's been a big part of my growth as a running back. I didn't play running back in high school, so he's taught me patience."
There should be at least a few seams against the Huskers, who rank 75th in the country against the run. Even if the offensive line breaks down again this weekend, Buckley has the skill set to create plays for himself. The Cats may also look to Buckley to bring back the screen game; he caught two passes in consecutive weeks against Syracuse and Western Michigan, but hasn't made a reception since.
"I honestly don't know yet," Buckley says about his role in passing sets. "Come game time, we'll really figure out what's going on."
Trumpy is still listed as the starting running back in this week's depth chart, and Buckley is listed as the co-second string back alongside Green. With Green still hobbled by an undisclosed injury — he was an "emergency option" last week — and Trumpy averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry in the past two losses, Northwestern would be wise to let Buckley have another crack at a 100-yard day.
"I go into every game thinking something could possibly go wrong, meaning I could play every snap or no snaps," he said.
Here's hoping for the former.