Husker fans might want to include southern California quarterbacks coach Steve Calhoun and Eli and Peyton Manning of the Manning Passing Academy in their Christmas card lists this year. It was those two entities that Taylor Martinez sought in the offseason to improve his passing skills. And improve, he did!
GOOSE EGGS The 2012 version of TM was unveiled Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in front of more than 85,000 rabid Husker fans. For the day, Martinez threw for 354 yards and 5 TDs (26 for 34 for 76% completion rate) and rushed for another 10 yards. But even more importantly, Martinez had zero interceptions and zero turnovers in a 49-20 win over an outmanned Southern Mississippi team.
HEISMAN SHOWDOWN? Martinez played with a vengeance Saturday, letting it be known that at least for one game, he's back at the top of his game. If he keeps up this kind of performance, there could be a big showdown come October 27th when the Michigan Wolverines, led by their Heisman hopeful, Dennard Robinson, come to Lincoln. Husker fans can't wait for that one.
IT'S BETTER TO RECEIVE On Saturday, Martinez was brilliant: he was efficient, smooth, elusive, smart, polished, confident and led his team in every facet of the offense. It didn't hurt that his receivers (all 10 of them!) and his running backs also performed exceptionally well.
The Golden Eagles, whose practice schedule was interrupted last week by Hurricane Isaac, had no answer for #3.
IT'S ONLY ONE But one game does not a season make. That TM can play amazing football is not surprising considering his electrifying performances at Washington, at Oklahoma State and at Kansas State in 2010. The real test to Martinez's legacy will be established not by beating teams like USM, but winning in hostile environments like Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa.
TM's legacy will be defined by the championships he will have won during his career. Beating up on weaker teams can pad your stats, but championships are the real test.
JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM Right now, here are the facts: Martinez has only one divisional championship, (2010) in the Big 12's weak North Division; is 0-1 in conference championship games; has zero conference championships and is 0-2 in bowl games. Of course, those losses weren't all his fault, but quarterbacks, fairly or not, often get too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses.
THE MAIN COURSE Let's see how #3 does in the meat of the conference. Can he lead his team to an 11-win season, a divisional title, conference championship and a possible BCS bowl victory this year? How far this year's Husker team goes rides squarely on the back (legs and arms) of Taylor Martinez. Can he handle the pressure and expectations? Of course, no one knows. I know it's way too early, but right now, you have to include Nebraska as a favorite to win the conference championship this December in Indianapolis. And TM might want to be checking the December flight schedules to New York City.
COSGROVE-ISH? The defense looked rather Cosgrove-ish at times Saturday. Once again, a mobile quarterback gave the Blackshirts problems. What's going to happen when the Huskers face Braxton Miller and Dennard Robinson? Let's hope the defense improves by conference play. And yet allowing only 3 second-half points Saturday isn't a bad day's work.
QUOTE OF THE DAY After his defense surrendered 49 points in a 29-point loss to Nebraska Saturday, Southern Mississippi's first-year head coach, Ellis Johnson, told the Omaha World Herald, "A lot of our younger players on defense, their youth popped out before their talent did."
RAMS BEAT THE BUFFIES
The wascally Colorado State Wams, beat the CU Buffaloes in Denver Saturday 22-17. How sweet it is!
FORMER HUSKERS FRANKIE AND THE BOBCATS In what sounds like a 50s rock group, the Ohio University football team, under the leadership of former Husker head coach Frank Solich, won a very emotional game at Happy Valley Saturday, downing the Penn State Nittany Lions, 27-17. Congratulations, coach! As for PSU, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. THE "GREEN" HURRICANES Former Husker quarterback Cody Green, who transferred in 2011 to Tulsa, didn't fare quite as well as the Bobcats. Green's Golden Hurricanes lost to Iowa State in Ames 38-23. Green rushed 9 times for minus 20 yards and was 23 of 49 with two interceptions. Green, a junior, looks as if he picked up where he left off at Nebraska. FAU OWLS BEGIN THE PELINI ERA 1-0 Former Husker DC Carl Pelini's Florida Atlantic Owls clawed out a 7-3 win Saturday over powerhouse Wagner College. It was the Owls' first season-opener victory since 2008. Sigh... THE HEISMAN COLOR MAN In his debut as the color guy for Fox Sports, former Husker Heisman winner Eric Crouch performed really well in his coverage of the West Virginia-Marshall game at WV. KEVIN KUGLER I got to watch some of the B1G Ten Game Kevin Kugler broadcast Saturday. As usual, he was brilliant. Kugler, the pride of Lincoln, Neb., and Holyoke, Colo., recently assumed the role of National Sports Correspondent for the B1G Ten Network. Fans will still be able to hear him from time to time on "Unsportsmanlike Conduct," a radio show on 1620 The Zone he co-hosted for many years. Good news for sports fans: Kugler will continue his duties as a radio play-by-play announcer for NFL football and NCAA basketball games. THE FLAMES EXTINGUISHED Former Husker quarterback, assistant and Kansas head coach Turner Gill had a rough debut Saturday when his Liberty University Flames were extinguished by Winston-Salem, 17-20. APPALACHIAN STATE OF MIND And former Husker assistant Jerry Moore's Appalachian State Mountaineers (not to be confused with the Mouseketeers) lost a nail biter to East Carolina, 13-35. ANDY RODDICK Former Omahan Andy Roddick keeps advancing in the U.S. Open -- an event that win or lose, will be the last tennis tournament he'll compete in. Good luck, Andy! RUIN THE BRUINS Forty years ago this month, I sat in the stands with Mrs. Husker Dan at the LA Coliseum to see my beloved Huskers lose to the UCLA Bruins, 20-17. It was the first time in 31 games Nebraska had lost. It was the final season for Johnny Rodgers and Rich Glover, whose Nebraska teams had just come off the first two national championships in school history. I can still see Efren Herrera's 30-yard field goal sail though the uprights with only 22 seconds to go in the game that sealed the win for the Bruins. Husker fans remember the quarterback who engineered the upset that day is current TV star Mark Harmon. To this day, I still can't stand to watch any of his TV shows.
UCLA-NEBRASKA Bad Joke What do you notice first when the smog clears in southern California? UCLA. Groan.
Say what you want about Bo Pelini's coaching record at Nebraska, but in just Year Two in the B1G Ten Conference, his Nebraska team is playing in the Rose Bowl! Okay, so it's a non-conference game against UCLA this Saturday. Big deal.
For the second week in a row, the Huskers will be playing a team with a new coach and a new quarterback, But at least Bo and his assistants have some game film to watch of the Bruins' 40-24 win at Rice last Thursday night.
Non-conference games like this one are always a challenge. It will be a homecoming for several Husker players, not the least of which is Taylor Martinez.
Let's hope the players stay focused and don't let friends and family members distract them from the goal of winning the game.
Both teams seem to have high-powered offenses, but the Rice Owls' defense may be a bit suspect. So how will the game go? Good question.
The Huskers have way too many offensive weapons for the Bruins this Saturday. The Blackshirts should improve, the Husker special teams after a terrible performance last Saturday will rebound. Bret Maher won't miss. Most of the Rose Bowl crowd will be wearing Husker red Saturday. The Huskers should prevail.