LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska's defense took another major hit Saturday with coach Bo Pelini's announcement Saturday that middle linebacker Michael Rose would undergo knee surgery next week and miss the season.
Rose, who was hurt in a non-contact drill Friday, is the third key member of the defense in three days to be ruled out for the season.
On Thursday the Huskers learned they would be without nickel back Charles Jackson because of a knee injury, and on Friday the athletic department announced safety LeRoy Alexander would be suspended for the season.
''Our team morale is fine,'' Pelini said. ''I feel for those kids. As far as us going forward, we have a lot of good players, we've got a lot of good competition. We'll be just fine.''
Rose set a school freshman record with 66 tackles last season. He made at least seven tackles in each of the last five games. He was competing with Josh Banderas for the starter's job. Pelini said Trevor Roach, who had been playing on the outside, has moved back to the middle to add depth.
Byerson Cockrell and freshmen Josh Kalu and Trai Mosley are competing for playing time at nickel.
Alexander was battling Nate Gerry at the safety spot opposite Corey Cooper. Pelini said Alexander's absence creates opportunities for freshman Kieron Williams, redshirt freshman D.J. Singleton and walk-on freshman Luke Gifford.
Freshman quarterback Zack Darlington had contact for the first time since suffering a concussion early in his senior season at Apopka, Fla. Darlington enrolled at Nebraska in January. Pelini said getting hit was not a big deal to Darlington, who was rated one of the nation's top quarterback prospects before his injury.
''I don't think he's real worried about it right now,'' Pelini said. ''He's cleared, the doctors feel good about where he is. He hasn't batted an eye yet.''