SAN DIEGO — A first look at the opposition, which we will be doing all week from here in sort of sunny San Diego.
No better place to start than with the primary throng of Nebraska’s attack in the first meeting, quarterback Taylor Martinez. A run down of Mr. Martinez:
What he did on Sept. 18: Martinez was the main issue for the Washington defense. He ran for an 80-yard touchdown, threw for 150 yards and had Nebraska reporters stunned postgame at how much better this year’s Huskers offense looked versus the 2009 version. Martinez was efficient throwing, 7-for-11, and hid the ball well on zone reads. So much so, the Washington defense spent too much time staring at him and worrying. That opened things for back Roy Helu Jr. Staring at Martinez was one of the main gripes for defensive coordinator Nick Holt when recounting the game.
What he’s done since: Considering his start, Martinez was mentioned as an early Heisman candidate. Martinez had two more big games, 241 yards on the ground against Kansas State and 323 yards passing plus 112 yards rushing against Oklahoma State, then fell off. Like Wile E. Coyote when faced with a cliff. Martinez missed two games because of an ankle injury and had lines like 12 carries for 16 yards, 11 carries for 17 yards and 14 carries for -32 yards. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini benched Martinez at one point.
What can be expected Thursday: Like Jake Locker, the time off has helped Martinez heal. Opposing defenses locked in on stopping Martinez from running for the second half of the season, and, with him hobbled, it worked. Another big issue was his execution against blitzes. Washington blitzed multiple times in the first meeting, so much so it prompted Nebraska senior wide receiver Mike McNeill to tell the Omaha World-Herald, “We really hit the blitz in the mouth. They brought a lot of pressure. We kind of countered that.”