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9 NEBRASKA

Aug. 22, 2011
Aug. 22, 2011

Table of Contents
Aug. 22, 2011

LEADING OFF
GOLF PLUS
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
Point After
Departments

9 NEBRASKA

New scheme plus healthy QB equals more fun (and wins)

Last November, after suffering an ankle sprain three weeks earlier, Taylor Martinez was finally feeling like himself when Nebraska visited Texas A&M. Early in the game, however, the quarterback was seen wiping blood from a cut on his right arm. He later suffered what would be diagnosed as turf toe. Then center Mike Caputo inadvertently stepped on his previously injured right ankle. "It was really painful," Martinez says.

This is an article from the Aug. 22, 2011 issue

Nebraska fans didn't learn until well after the season just how much the freshman QB was hurting during the second half of the season. After rushing for more than 100 yards in five of the Cornhuskers' first seven games, T-Magic, as he'd come to be known, had just 95 total rushing yards in his last five starts (he missed two games to injuries) and failed to throw for more than 167 in a game. He and the Huskers bottomed out in a 19--7 Holiday Bowl loss to Washington—the same team Martinez shredded for 137 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 56--21 road win three months earlier. "He had so much success early people almost forgot he was a freshman," says coach Bo Pelini, whose nationally televised tongue lashing of his quarterback during the A&M game, a 9--6 loss, prompted rumors that the QB might transfer. (Martinez now says he "loves" Pelini and that the incident was a misunderstanding.)

To resurrect the Magic and rejuvenate the Huskers' attack as they enter their first year in the Big Ten, fourth-year coach Pelini parted ways with offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and promoted running backs coach Tim Beck. Under Watson, Nebraska employed a complex West Coast passing playbook. Beck, the pass-game coordinator at Kansas when the Jayhawks went 12--1 in 2007, has simplified things and picked up the tempo. "It will be a little more upbeat," says Martinez. "It should be more fun to watch."

Nebraska may have the Big Ten's best defense, led by All-Americas Jared Crick at defensive tackle and Lavonte David at linebacker. But after scoring more than 20 points once in their last five games in '10, the Huskers need more than a new playbook. A fit, savvier Martinez will be the biggest difference-maker. "He's healthy," running back Rex Burkhead says. "He'll be the explosive player he's known to be."

Schedule

SEPTEMBER

3 Tenn.-Chattanooga

10 Fresno State

17 Washington

24 at Wyoming

OCTOBER

1 at Wisconsin

8 Ohio State

22 at Minnesota

29 Michigan State

NOVEMBER

5 Northwestern

12 at Penn State

19 at Michigan

25 Iowa

Key Players

REX BURKHEAD

RB, Junior

Rushed for 951 yards (5.5 per carry) and seven touchdowns while splitting time last season.

JARED CRICK

DT, Senior

A second-team All-America last season, he ranks seventh in school history with 19 career sacks.

LAVONTE DAVID

LB, Senior

Set a school mark for tackles in 2010 with 152 after transferring from junior college.

Fast Facts

Conference Big Ten

Coach Bo Pelini (4th year)

2010 Record 10--4 (6--2 in Big 12)

Final AP Rank 20

Returning Starters 11

Offense 5, Defense 6

PHOTOJED JACOBSOHN (MARTINEZ)Martinez didn't let on how much his toe and ankle were hurting late last season; now that he's healed, Huskers fans are hopeful that the Magic is back.PHOTOBRETT DAVIS/US PRESSWIRE (DAVID)