Could NU Become too one-Dimensional with Martinez?

By Todd Neeley

Not to complain about a 49-10 win, but Nebraska’s performance against Western Kentucky Saturday in Lincoln was a mixed bag.

The comparisons already made between Nebraska freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez and former Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch are legitimate.

Sure as shootin’ that Martinez looks like Crouch in uniform, has comparable speed and arguably appears to be a little better passer than Crouch.

There is one similarity that should be of concern to coaches and fans alike.

After game one this Nebraska offense has taken on one very similar look to the Crouch-led offenses that went flat in the national championship game in the Rose Bowl against Miami in 2002. In that game Crouch had 176 of Nebraska’s 259 total yards. That was Nebraska’s offense in a nutshell with Crouch.

If Martinez remains the starter for the rest of the season, it’s obvious that he’s the guy NU will build the offense around.

This is where Nebraska runs the risk of becoming entirely one dimensional — Martinez right, Martinez left, Martinez on the scramble.

There weren’t a lot of weapons around Crouch, and in fact NU’s best “threats” at I-back during those years was Dahran Diedrick and Thunder Collins. Neither guy could carry the load like Nebraska I-backs of old.

The good news for Nebraska and Martinez is that Rex Burkhead is emerging as the top I-back.

OK, no mistaking the Western Kentucky defense for Texas, but Burkhead finished with 57 yards rushing on just five carries and a 24-yard touchdown run, along with two receptions for 47 yards. Give the guy 15 carries and the math changes dramatically for the better.

The combination of Burkhead and Martinez clearly appears to be the best way to go for this offense that will be running more often than not.

Following Nebraska’s win local media continued to pound home the notion that the quarterback race will be ongoing — good for keeping an intriguing story alive I guess.

I don’t buy it.

I know what I saw Saturday. It wasn’t much of a quarterback race.

Nebraska is more explosive with Martinez in the lineup. Cody Green and Zac Lee are decent backups, but neither guy has the big-play ability NU needs at the position.

Obviously Bo Pelini wants to keep the QB race ongoing as he does with every position, but it really is Martinez’ job to lose at this point.

When you start hearing comparisons to Crouch, and that Martinez is the first Nebraska QB to rush for more than 100 yards in a game since Jammal Lord, it speaks volumes for what this offense needs — a threat, not a game manager, at quarterback.

NU can’t go back to the days of the one-man show and have a shot at a national title.

Nebraska needs to find a way to get the ball to receivers Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie, who combined caught 11 passes against WKU for 151 yards and one touchdown.

Nice numbers. But except for the Paul 33-yard touchdown catch, neither player put fear into the Hilltoppers’ defense.

And as has been the case throughout his entire career at Nebraska, Roy Helu Jr. was just kind of there at I-back. He finished the night with 29 yards on five carries and one touchdown.

Ho-hum.

This was the kind of game Nebraska teams of old would produce two or three 100-yard rushers.

Now, on to the defense.

Pelini was irritated with what he called an “absolute embarrassment” in describing Nebraska’s defensive performance. It wasn’t as if the Hilltoppers manhandled the NU defensive line, but really it was more a product of playing two inexperienced linebackers as a result of injuries to Will Compton and Sean Fisher.

Communication was a big problem, most evident on a 47-yard touchdown run by Bobby Rainey that was nullified on a fumble. There was a gaping hole in the middle of the Nebraska defense that coaches later said was a result of defenders not being on the same page on the play called from the sideline.

I’m going to beat a dead horse here.

Ndamukong Suh’s absense was painfully obvious.

Jared Crick had a so-so performance with six tackles and a jarring hit on WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes. But Crick, Pierre Allen, Cameron Meredith, Terrence Moore, Baker Steinkuhler and the rest of the defensive line have a long way to go before the trip to Washington in two weeks.

No doubt, this was typical of many opening games for Nebraska.

Things will get better.

Posted on September 5, 2010, in Taylor Martinez. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The best opener Nebraska had in recent vintage was a 52-7 victory over Nevada. Remember how he rest of that season went? Openers don’t always foretell how the rest of the season will play out.

    • Well, Count, if you saw Taylor Martinez running the offense Saturday, he’s by far the best athlete Nebraska has had the position since Eric Crouch. Clearly, Nebraska made a point against WKU that it will run the ball first. Right now Martinez and Burkhead are the only gamebreakers on that offense. Roy Helu isn’t going to be the player NU had hoped for, and judging by Martinez’ play Nebraska will build the offense around him.

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