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October 23, 2010

Unpredictable Martinez, rock-solid Henery make difference

Taylor Martinez can help win a game with his arm, after all. That’s a new development that gives hope to Cornhusker fans around the nation.

Alex Henery can make the difference in a close game. That’s something we’ve all come to expect.

Martinez and Henery teamed up with wideouts Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie to make the biggest plays as the Huskers claimed a 51-41 victory over Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens’ kingdom in Stillwater, Okla.

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Martinez came back from a benching to pass for 323 yards and five touchdowns, while piling up 435 yards in total offense. For one week, at least, he looked like he can make Shawn Watson’s short passing game work, while hitting a deep vertical throw once in a while.

Martinez makes things happen. He makes unbelievably wild decisions with the ball once in a while, but then again, he turns bad plays into good ones. He’s still learning, and Husker fans have to take the bad with the good, but it looked like Martinez did some growing up in Stillwater.

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Nebraska showed some much-needed diversity on offense. It’s a good thing, because the Husker run defense doesn’t look like it can stop anybody right now.

I was under the impression that Bo Pelini was building the Nebraska program by emphasizing the offensive and defensive lines. I have a lot more questions about that today than I was a month ago. Both have looked very shaky at times in the last two weeks. Nebraska’s best running play against OSU was Martinez scrambling in a broken field.

What was that Pelini said last winter? Something about this Nebraska defense having the potential to be five times better than the 2009 version? Forget that talk.

Nebraska misses Ndamukong Suh more every week. It was supposed to work the other way around. I think we had all figured out by last week that this is not a dominating Blackshirt defense. But now I’m starting to wonder if it’s a good Blackshirt defense. The jury is still out on that notion.

One thing is for sure: After a first half in which a powerful Oklahoma State offense flat-out embarrassed the Blackshirts, Carl Pelini and his troops made some adjustments and played well enough for Martinez and his fleet of receivers to win the game for the Big Red. If Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie betrayed their young quarterback last week, this week they gave him the help he needed to beat a Cowboy team with a weak pass defense that was primed to stop the run.

The Blackshirts bailed out a weak Cornhusker offense often enough in the past two years. They were due to get a hand from the offense this time around.

Nebraska gave up more than 20 points for the first time in 21 games, but by outscoring the No. 17-rated Cowboys, the Cornhuskers got a sizable monkey off their back in the process. Since 2001, the Huskers had been one of only two teams not to defeat an Associated Press Top 19-rated team. Duke is the other. It’s good to leave that sort of company behind.

Henery left some excellent company behind, passing Kris Brown to become Nebraska’s all-time leader in field goals. He nailed three from 52, 32 and 45 yards to increase his career total to 59, and has made his last 17 in a row, tying Brown�s school record. He punted three times for a 50.3 average and placed a pair of his kicks inside the Oklahoma State 20-yard line. He even led the Huskers in rushing for awhile, rambling 27 yards on a fake punt in the first quarter to set up NU’s first touchdown of the game.

Henery is a rock of consistency, a counterbalance to Martinez’s erratic explosiveness. He will be greatly missed next season. In the meantime, he just may make the difference in at least one other Husker victory.

Photos courtesy of Huskers.com

Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker has covered University of Nebraska and state high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at [email protected]. | Archive