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J U S T I N   P R E S T I D G E
September 5, 2010
This Just-In...

Huskers switch to “T-Mobile” proves effective;
QB runs past Hilltoppers in 49-10 win

Player(s) of the Game: Taylor Martinez, 9-15, 136 yds, 7 car, 127 yds, 3TDs

Crouching Huskers, Hidden Martinez …

Minutes before Nebraska took the field for its season opener against Western Kentucky, Husker Nation learned the well-guarded identity of the starting QB. Enter Taylor Martinez. Cheers and applause erupted; even Martinez admitted he got chills. A fresh start. Ahh, the smell of a new football season – optimism abounds.

Fast forward just four minutes into the season, and Martinez shows us why he was given the starting nod as he took a zone-read keeper and outran a Hilltopper safety to paydirt. Three touchdowns and some electric runs later, I found myself asking “Did that just happen?” Shades of Mr. Crouch himself. Early, yes I know, and we must temper our enthusiasm, given the opponent, but for this game we saw something we didn’t last year: a playmaker. Martinez looked calm and poised; forget the fact that he was a freshman. Remember how shell-shocked Green looked last year against Oklahoma? Martinez looked as if he had just completed another day at the office – “Yes, I’ll sign those forms, just let me get across the goal line real quick, it won’t take a second, thanks.” Ho-hum. … I can run a 4.3 forty and you can’t – and my tattoo is pretty awesome too.

He will need some more work on his accuracy, but his passes looked crisp and he stood in the pocket well. Teams will start to key in on him more after these types of performances, so it will become imperative that he show that he can beat teams with his arm – something Crouch never really could do.

All three QBs played well in the game, and Green looked much improved over last year. It will be interesting to see the ongoing competition that Pelini talks about, but after seeing the flashes on Saturday, it will be hard to justify going with Green or Lee. The season is young, and so is Martinez – but hold on, it could be a wild ride.

“Hey, isn’t this peso worthless?”   “Don’t worry,
it will get better. Read the inscription: In Pelini we trust” …

Pelini summarized the defensive performance as “an embarrassment.” I don’t know if I would have quite taken it to that level, but there was certainly some cause for concern. Giving up 155 yards rushing to a running back from a team that didn’t win a game last year is sure to raise some red flags. Too often it looked as if the defense wasn’t ready when the ball was snapped. There seemed to be some confusion as to where everyone was supposed to be lined up.

We didn’t see the same surge from our front four that we were used to last year. Of course, losing Mr. All-Everything Suh will have that effect, as well as significant injuries at linebacker. After holding Western Kentucky to under 100 yards in the first half, the defense resembled a block of swiss cheese in the second half – holes everywhere.

There were some positives, however. The debut of Lavonte David and the play of Crick and Gomes were reasons for optimism that this defense can be top tier again this year. Last year we gave up over 350 yards in our season opener, and the defense improved from there. I would expect the same out of this unit. It will be hard to duplicate the stats from last year, but this is a talented bunch and we can be sure that the mental errors will be addressed. Remember, when dealing with currency, there can be big price swings, but when you have an investor as good as Pelini, you can rest assured you will be back in black(shirts) in no time.

In Conclusion …

One money game down, two more to go – along with the showdown against Washington in two weeks. It was nice to see the offense moving the ball and showing some true explosion. Our running backs really didn’t get a lot of work, mainly because Martinez was busy running for 18 yards a pop. Who needs a running back if you can get that kind of production from your QB?

Burkhead appears to be a step ahead of Helu, but it looks as if it will be mainly a three-back rotation this year with Helu, Burkhead and Robinson splitting carries. Niles Paul continues to be maddening, making plays then promptly turning the ball over. He has the ability to be great, but it looks like we will have to live with some of the mental lapses as well. Hopefully this will not end up costing us a game this year.

Defensively, we will have to improve to live up to our lofty preseason expectations. We will need to get more of a pass rush out of our front four, and our LB play will need some work. The secondary on paper appears to be a killer but had its share of mistakes. Even with all the mistakes, you can see that this is a defense that will not give up – the play Gomes made to save a TD was a classic hustle play.

We may very well have a balanced team this year. Not having to put all of the pressure on the defense will be a major plus for our 2010 Huskers. All in all, it was a decent start to the season. Up next are the Vandals from Idaho, fresh off of a 45-0 thrashing of North Dakota. The Huskers should win this one easily, but it will be a step up in competition as they were an eight-win team last year. Look for much of the same vanilla game plan as Pelini & Co. will not want to show anything significant for Washington to prepare for. There is valid reason for excitement. Husker Fans. Pelini said it last year: “Nebraska is back, and we are here to stay (except we are still moving to the Big Ten).”

Born and raised in Scottsbluff, Justin Prestidge is currently holding a low profile deep in the heart of Texas. A die hard Husker fan, he has been following Big Red Football for over 20 years and has been a member of the North Texas Nebraskans for the last 10. You can e-mail him here.