Martinez leads Huskers to season-opening win

By Lanny Holstein

Daily Nebraskan, U. Nebraska via UWIRE

Martinez leads Huskers to season-opening win

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez debuted his revamped throwing motion on Saturday to the tune of a career best 354 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The junior quarterback, who came into the season-opening game with Southern Miss 2,130 yards short of the Nebraska career passing yardage record, went 26 for 34 through the air in leading the Huskers to a 49-20 victory. His completions came all over the field and to a multitude of targets. By the end of the game, Martinez had completions to ten different players.

“You saw a lot of guys make catches,” coach Bo Pelini said. “I don’t know the number, but I thought it was pretty good across the board. We had a lot of guys play, and I don’t know that there was anybody in there that didn’t catch the football, or didn’t have a catch. It’s a pretty good job of distributing the ball.”

Martinez led an efficient Nebraska offense against Southern Miss. The team scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, including an opening drive capped by a 57-yard burst up the middle from running back Rex Burkhead. Fans released balloons into the afternoon sky for the final time following the play. A helium shortage is putting an end to the Husker tradition.

Nebraska’s offense produced points on all but four of its possessions in Saturday’s game in a game that saw the Huskers free of fumbles for the first time since 2009. A pair of missed field goals by Brett Maher and the game ending drive accounted for three of those four stalled drives. Any advantage the Southern Miss defense had, thanks to coaching changes and the mystery surrounding potential defensive schemes, evaporated quickly as Nebraska came out of the gate strong offensively.

“I thought our guys adjusted extremely well on the fly,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. “Our guys played well.”

Southern Miss answered the Husker attack with scores of its own in the game’s early going. Nebraska stretched its lead late in the first half with a touchdown catch by receiver Steven Osborne, but the Golden Eagles were still in the game down 28-17 at halftime. The Huskers pulled away with more offense and a tighter defense to begin the second half.

“I think we were starting to wear them out a little bit,” Beck said. “Our defense was able to kind of squelch them. Offensively as well, we made the adjustments and were able to get in rhythm.”

Husker running back Rex Burkhead went down early in the game with an MCL strain and didn’t play beyond the first quarter. The injury allowed backup Ameer Abdullah to see significant time. He led the Huskers with 81 rushing yards on 15 carries.

Moving forward, Nebraska is hopeful that Burkhead will be able to return quickly to the starting lineup. Coach Bo Pelini said he expects the senior to be back with the team sooner than later.

“He’ll be fine,” the coach said. “He’s day-to-day, week-to-week. I don’t think it’s anything long term. He’ll be fine.”

Martinez and Abdullah’s performances on Saturday make Nebraska feel better about dealing with potential loss of Burkhead, Beck said. The offensive coordinator said he sees the offense producing with or without the senior. Martinez’s passing numbers have Nebraska excited.

“He’s got a long way to go,” graduate assistant Joe Ganz said. “He knows that, but I’m very proud of what he did today.”

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