Said running backs coach Ron Brown: “There was resolve. A non-negotiable stake in the ground that said: ‘Lets do what we do best.”
“It was,” The Omaha World-Herald tells us, “an empty-the-bench, earn-a-letter day” on Saturday for the 17th-ranked Huskers, who won their season opener for the 27th year in a row. There probably was not anything meaningful to be learned in the 49-20 victory against not-exactly-a-cupcake Southern Mississippi.
Superficially, Taylor Martinez, Nebraska’s junior quarterback and the club’s biggest question mark, seemed transformed. His cartoonish throwing motion and off-target passes had been the cause of much anguish for folks in the groaning couches and sagging lawn chairs of Nebraska — “I think for a while I was probably his only friend,” the Huskers assistant Tim Beck said.
Receiver Jamal Turner, unusually for an athlete, hit the nail on the head: “Nobody” — least of all a football player — “wants to be talked about and criticized about not being able to throw the ball.”
On Saturday, the diminutive Martinez, throwing with more zip and from a higher release point, passed for 354 yards, a career high, and five touchdown passes, tying a career high. This productivity was said to be the result of his extensive off-season work — two years into his playing career, mind you — on learning how to throw the football like a grownup.
“I don’t think no one could stop us if we keep going like that,” Martinez charmingly intoned after the game.
But Southern Mississippi’s first-year coach, Ellis Johnson, played the role of wet blanket. Like a red-nosed retired athlete with a telestrator, Johnson hooked a fat finger at the so-called trenches. “The biggest thing was they man-handled us,” Johnson said.
“The only damper for Nebraska,” The Associated Press tells us, “was an injury to Rex Burkhead,” arguably Nebraska’s best player. Really, this was perhaps the most significant development, not because Burkhead’s injury was so serious but because it gives the sputtering, purple-faced head coach Bo Pelini something to be smugly circumspect about so early in the season.
After the game, Pelini met a sea of raised hands from reporters by droning that Burkhead was “day-to-day, week-to-week.”
Mostly, the victory provided a bumper crop of moronic comments dutifully reported by not-much-smarter sports reporters. As in Pelini’s commentary on the performance of Martinez: “I thought, to be efficient, he’s got to handle the offense well.”
Or as in the dim-witted sportswriter who apparently asked Martinez if it was “a statement game,” an unintentionally ambiguous phrase if there ever was one. Martinez answered in kind: “I guess if you guys want to say that,” he said.
“I saw this coming,” receiver Kenny Bell told The World-Herald. “You’re a product of anything you work on.”
“I feel good about where we’re at,” Beck said. “But, I mean, we got U.C.L.A. next week, right?”
- Nebraska Football: Taylor Martinez Back in the Heisman Picture (bleacherreport.com)
- Huskers are wary of buying into hype about offense (nbcsports.msnbc.com)
- Martinez’s Big Day Leads No. 17 Neb. To 49-20 Win (nytimes.com)
- Nebraska races past USM (hattiesburgamerican.com)