At the end of the "Back to the Future", Marty warns Doc to “be careful on that reentry, it could get a little rough.”
Perhaps that advice could be given to Husker Nation after Saturday’s herky-jerky trip through time.
The first play handoff to fullback Tyler Legate seemed like pandering to the masses who have clamored for some old school Husker football. And while Legate never saw the ball again, it was a sign of things to come as Taylor Martinez was transformed from read option wizard to sprint option apprentice. Nebraska hasn’t seen this many options run since Eric Crouch was triggering the offense. Problem is Crouch was built for that style of offense, NU’s current day quarterback needs some work.
Hear Bo Pelini's postgame comments
I have been plenty critical of Martinez in this space, but I am not going to throw him entirely under the bus for the offensive execution issues in Nebraska’s 40-7 win over Chattanooga. I just don’t know if this is the style of offense Martinez is best suited to run.
Martinez is a north-south quarterback. His first step, second step and third step is among the fastest we’ve ever seen in Lincoln. But it only works when he is moving toward the goal line, not parallel to it. Yes, he had three touchdowns, including his first since the Kansas State game on a sprint option from seven yards out when he tucked it inside. His second, on a 4th and 2 was also a perimeter option against a defense that was packed so tight to the middle that once Martinez hit the corner, the play was over.
Taylor Martinez postgame comments
But it was his third scoring jaunt, a 47 yarder in the 3rd quarter where Martinez looked like Martinez. Read option, out of the gun, both eyes looking down field; find your crease and go.
The sprint option where you slide down the line requires a fluidity that Martinez doesn’t seem to have. He looks mechanical. It is going to take some time for him to get comfortable in this style. Problem is, the season has begun and it’s not going to get any easier than it was Saturday against the Mocs.
Of course, it didn’t help that NU’s peach fuzz offensive line struggled some on Saturday handling yet another team that packed the box with defenders. Running between the tackles was practically non-existent as this statement from UTC Head Coach Russ Huesman indicated.
“When we came in, we didn’t know if we could get off of blocks. Could we even stop the power play? Can we defend the belly option? And we did.”
Either Huesman has his players already built to defend the belly option; he had spies at NU’s practices or he is a really good guesser because no indication was given that Nebraska was going to be running this style of option prior to Saturday. Only Bo Pelini’s statements of “old school Nebraska football” at Friday’s Big Red Breakfast told us that much.
While the 40-7 score was not close and Nebraska was never really threatened as they were with their last FCS opponent, what UTC did defensively Saturday might provide another blueprint to future FBS opponents much like what South Dakota State did last year.
Nebraska-UTC Full Stats Breakdown
Nebraska-UTC Full Stats Breakdown
But It Wasn’t All Bad
If running the offense looked awkward at times, getting the plays in appeared anything but. I was amazed at how smooth things appeared to go as Nebraska bounced from play to play. Martinez never looked rushed as he would look to the sideline for the next play and his teammates would unstack, take their positions and await Martinez’s instructions. On most occasions, the ball would be snapped with 15 to 20 second remaining on the play clock – an unheard of notion the last few years. The plays themselves may have not have always looked smooth, but the communication from booth to field to players did. By the way, there was only one penalty all afternoon on the offensive line.
Martinez was asked twice during August about the status of his ankle and foot ailments. Both times, he answered “you’ll see September 3rd.” We did and I think the answer is ‘yes, Taylor is fine.’ No particular surprise, but comforting nonetheless.
Jared Crick may have company in the All American category if the season plays out for Cameron Meredith as it did in the opener. Meredith owned Mocs’ left tackle Taylor Dodds and spent a good part of his day harassing B.J. Coleman. Even after his second sack resulted in a twisted ankle, he came back out for the second half and intercepted a Crick deflection. Then he ran with reckless abandon after a Josh Williams blocked field goal.
Cameron Meredith postgame comments
Oh, and Crick? Yeah, he was Crick. Ho-hum.
We saw more than our fair share of new blood and the future does look fast, if not bright. Ameer Abdullah fits the punt return role well. Daimion Stafford gets the Rickey Thenarse award for ooooh-ing the crowd with his earth-rumbling hits. Jamal Turner nearly turned in a play of the year candidate when he bounced off a defender on a fourth quarter sideline pass, then Mike Rozier-ed his way across the field, narrowly turning a five yard pass-and-catch into an 80 yard scoring play. Trevor Roach became the latest walk-on from Elkhorn to stir questions of “who’s that guy” when he replaced an injured Will Compton and ended up Nebraska’s second leading tackler.
Trever Roach postgame comments
Finally, we have Brett Maher, the guy from Kearney who couldn’t possible fill the shoes of his celebrated predecessor, Alex Henery. His day? There was a 50 yard field goal into the wind. There were three touchbacks on kickoffs. Throw in four punts of 53, 50, 50 and 55 yards plus three more field goals. The last time a Husker kicked four field goals in an opener? Yeah, old what’s-his-name from Omaha.
Brett Maher postgame comments
Sooner Schooner Heading North?
I’m reading a growing sentiment from folks in these parts for an Oklahoma invite to the B1G (I’m getting used to typing it that way, get used to it) and a revival of the Husker-Sooner rivalry. Count me out.
Sure, I appreciated the annual Thanksgiving week game for its drama, the angst, the finality of a championship on the line. But it is over. OU ended it in 1995 when they refused to go along with Nebraska on a scheduling formula that would keep it alive.
Think about that for a moment. Oklahoma elected to allow a series that was just as important and anticipated nationally as the Michigan-Ohio State game through the 70s and 80s to die without even lifting a finger to save it. Imagine if after Nebraska was admitted to the B1G that the conference decided to kill UM-OSU and Michigan just let it go with nary a protest. It’s unfathomable. But that’s exactly what the Okies did. They let it die.
As far as I am concerned this death, like all others, is permanent. It was a great rivalry, but it was also a product of a different time and place in college football. The Sooners hitched their Schooner to Bevo – and I don’t necessarily fault them for that – and they belong with Texas. It is their cultural fit. It is not the B1G’s.
Whatever happens with the insanity these super conferences have created, there does need to be some geographic sanity with whatever shape these leagues take. Despite the focus on national draw with larger conferences, marquee matchups and greater television ratings, college football has to maintain a regional flavor. Super conferences will bring playoffs which will take it one step closer to NFL-light (Nevin Shapiro’s efforts not withstanding), but you jeopardize the entire identity of the college game if schools like Oklahoma are aligned with schools like Wisconsin, or Penn State, or yes, Nebraska.
Frankly, the Sooners are no more a Pac 12 school than they are a B1G school. But that is where the Schooner appears to be headed, like the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath. They will take T. Boone Pickens Cowboys with them. They may or may not bring Texas and their carcinogenic network along. Finally, Texas Tech gets to be the player-to-be-named-later.
Boy, I’d hate to be a Missouri or Kansas administrator right now.
Not-so Amazing Discoveries
Here is a paragraph from Orangebloods.com Chip Brown’s story on Oklahoma’s possible withdraw from the Big 12 Conference.
But Texas' move to the Pac-12 would also be difficult because of the legislative heat the Longhorns would likely face. Legislative sources said Friday night that part of the reason Texas A&M was allowed to withdraw from the Big 12 was because of assurances from the rest of the Big 12 that the league would survive.
Things really are bigger in Texas. Like the gullible nature of their politicians. In the words of Charlie Sheen, duh!
Settling The Argument (not really)
The 40th anniversary reunion of the 1971 Cornhuskers has rekindled the age-old argument of which team was better. The ’71 squad or the ’95 squad? The Sporting News has weighed in by taking the elder Huskers. But many born of my generation and later think the Tommie Frazier-led Huskers are the Big Red standard.
Let’s lay down some numbers.
In 1971, Nebraska beat three top five rated teams. The eventual #3 Colorado (31-7 in Lincoln), #2 Oklahoma (35-31, Game of the Century in Norman) and #4 Alabama (38-6, Orange Bowl.) Talk about a consensus national champion. Nobody that I could find has done that.
In 1995, the Huskers beat #2 Florida (62-24, Fiesta Bowl), #5 Colorado (44-21 in Boulder), #7 Kansas State (49-25 in Lincoln), #9 Kansas (41-3 in Lawrence.)
The ’71 historic gauntlet is very tough to beat. The 1995 run has one more game versus a ranked foe and two road games, both blowouts. You cannot look at this argument as a which-team-would-beat-the-other, because of the obvious physical differences between football in the early 70’s versus the mid-90s. Instead, one must consider how dominant the subject was over the rest of the college football landscape that season and the quality of those teams.
Many college historians believe the ’71 Sooners were among the greatest runner-ups in the game’s history. They obliterated darn near everyone they played. And Nebraska won the closest thing to a playoff college football has ever seen. Many forget that going into Thanksgiving weekend, you had undefeated Nebraska facing unbeaten Oklahoma plus the Iron Bowl featured unbeatens Alabama and Auburn to decide the SEC. In the bowls, while NU was rolling the tide in Miami, the Sooners bombed Auburn in the Sugar Bowl in the consolation game. Colorado won their bowl game against Houston and did have a regular season win at the Horseshow over a 6-4 Woody Hayes-led Ohio State team.
How good were the teams the 1995 Huskers took apart? The following year, Steve Spurrier would hire an up-and-coming defensive coordinator from Kansas State to rebuild his defense and Bob Stoops would help Florida to the 1996 National Championship. Colorado would decimate #18 Oregon in the Cotton Bowl. K-State spanked #25 Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl while Kansas mauled top 25 UCLA in the Aloha Bowl.
How about the quality of the players and their impact on the season?
The 1971 Huskers boasted six All-Americans (Jeff Kinney, Larry Jacobson, Rich Glover, Jerry Tagge, Johnny Rodgers and Willie Harper) including four consensus All-Americans (Jacobson, Rodgers, Glover, Harper.) There were two more future All-Americans who were either starters or key reserves in OT Daryl White and DT John Dutton. The Huskers had one national award recipient in Outland Trophy winner Jacobson and two future winners in 1972 Heisman winner Rodgers and 1972 Outland and Lombardi winner Glover.
Surprisingly, the 1995 Cornhuskers only had three All-Americans (Tommie Frazier, Aaron Graham and Jared Tomich) with Frazier a consensus pick. But three others on the two-deep were future All Americans (Jason Peter, Grant Wistrom and Aaron Taylor) with one (Wistrom) a future Lombardi Award recipient and Taylor a future Outland Trophy winner. Tommie Frazier would be denied the 1995 Heisman, but did win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, an award that did not exist in 1971.
The schedule argument, while close, has to go to 1995 because of the method with which they bludgeoned the opposition. Nobody played them close. At least the Sooners scared the ’71 Huskers to a degree.
But the individual superiority based on honors, belongs to the 1971 Huskers and there weren’t 100 different awards to win on ESPN back then.
So what I am essentially saying is that I’ve spent a lot of time telling you that I still don’t know which team is “the greatest.”
But I’ll put them up against anything any other school can offer historically.