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  • Retooled Martinez passes first test in a big way

    The much-anticipated 2012 Nebraska football season started with a flash of the old Rex Burkhead, but when the All-Big Ten running back went down early with strained knee ligaments, it opened up the game for what looked like a new Taylor Martinez.

    Round two of Tim Beck's reign as offensive coordinator began well as Nebraska recorded a 49-20 win over Southern Mississippi.

    Maybe this spread option can be Taylor Martinez’s offense after all. It better be, since Burkhead could be unavailable for a while. In his postgame interview, Bo Pelini said Burkhead would be “just fine,” which of course is what Pelini said about Martinez’s badly sprained ankle several times late in 2010. I get a bad feeling that Burkhead could be operating at about 80 or 90 percent for the rest of the season, but I hope I’m wrong.

    It was a big day for Martinez. The junior quarterback from Corona, Calif., was at center stage all day, completing 26 of 34 passes for a career-high 354 yards and five touchdowns. He looked calm and composed, and ran the offence efficiently.
    Martinez distributed the ball to 10 different receivers, and looked more confident on midrange throws than I can remember. He never really had to run the ball.

    Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
    Quincy Enunwa catches an on-target pass
    from Taylor Martinez in the first half.

    The kicking game was wretched and the defense was spotty, but there was nothing but good news for Beck’s unit. Nebraska looked sharp on offense, snapping the ball 79 times, piling up 632 yards of total offense. The Huskers did not turn over the football and committed only two penalties for 30 yards.

    Despite Burkhead’s absence, the Huskers showed good balance, rushing for 278 yards, including 102 in the fourth quarter, which allowed Nebraska to decisively close out an athletic Golden Eagle team. They ran the ball 57 percent of the time, and all three of Burkhead’s backups had their good moments and big Mike Marrow looked promising at fullback.

    Probably the best news about the rushing game was that I counted at least 12 offensive linemen who got playing time for the Big Red. Barney Cotton grabbed the opportunity to develop some depth in a game that would have been much closer a year ago. You’ve got to credit the o-line for doing a good job of protecting the passer as well.

    Martinez hit most of his open receivers and averaged more than 10 yards per pass attempt – a very impressive figure for anyone who throws more than 30 passes. He seemed solid on third down, moving the chains time and again with completions. When was the last time since the Callahan era Nebraska had 17 first downs passing the football?

    Can Martinez keep up this kind of pace? After all, it was just his second 300-yard passing game in 26 starts. There’s no doubt he has looked much more at ease throughout fall camp than at any time in his career. There’s no denying his footwork is improved after a long offseason of work. His confidence just went up at least 10 percentage points after a great performance against an athletic team.

    It’s likely Martinez puts up good numbers throughout September, but then again, he has done that throughout his career. In October, his real tests will begin.

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Luke's Avatar
      Luke -
      My plea to the coaches: keep Burkhead out until he is absolutely 100%. After today, I'm very confident that we can sweep our non-con schedule without him. Even dropping a game at UCLA is preferable to winning that one but losing 2-3 conference games that we shouldn't because Burkhead is fighting a nagging injury.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Excellent assessment. I don't know all the red shirt rules; but, judging by the three backups yesterday -- they may be more beneficial than an 70 to 80 percent Burkhead. Why not red shirt him for this year and let him come back next year with Martinez as a senior.?
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Tad... the story of this game was the fact the So. Miss' O-line manhandled NU's front seven in the first half. We will have serious problems in the Big Ten with these DT and LB... tackling was poor - and bluntly our physicality upfront on Defense isn't good enough.
    1. WA Husker's Avatar
      WA Husker -
      I have to agree with "redshirt Burkhead" movement, if his injury lingers. Thought Abdullah did a very credible job running; and, seemed more confident as the game progressed. As one of BC's ardent critics, I have to give the o-line high marks for much of the day. Good to see T-Mart NOT on his back 5-6 times against a defense which, if not the equal of NU's athletecism, certainly wasn't afraid to hit. The offense seemed more balanced than I can remember in a long time; and, they will need to be for the D-unit looked very shaky for most of the first 3 quarters. What gives with that, Bo? Can't wait for a full team to appear in Husker uniform in an opening game one of these years . . .
    1. Tad Stryker's Avatar
      Tad Stryker -
      There's no doubt the Husker defensive line has a lot to prove. I saw few explosive plays by the NU defense against So Miss. That will have to change.
    1. Friendly PT's Avatar
      Friendly PT -
      You 'sprain' ligaments and 'strain' muscles. It will probably be wise to keep Rex out until the Wisconsin game then hopefully he'll be good (maybe with a brace).

      We'll need Martinez dynamic running to go as far as we'd like. Hopefully Beck was trying to save it some for the tougher tests. Still want to see the dominating Blackshirts back.
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