Nebraska Proves Hard to Shake
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 19, 2010
On paper, it was a recipe for disaster: a redshirt freshman quarterback, making his first career start outside the friendly confines, leading the offense into one of the nation’s most inhospitable road environments. The stadium shook, reverberated with the cheers and chants of a fan base optimistically prepared for a national coming-out party. The cameras shook, the first down markers shook — perhaps the only thing the Washington home crowd didn’t shake, couldn’t shake, was Taylor Martinez’s confidence. High before, the redshirt freshman’s self-confidence is now off the charts, immeasurable, following Nebraska’s thorough, top-to-bottom demolition of a U.W. team searching for answers to its second-year blues.
Continuing with Martinez: he’s the fastest quarterback in the country. Check out his third-quarter touchdown run, when a seemingly small misstep by Washington’s outside contain man — a slight dodge inside, a turn of the shoulders — ended in an 80-yard touchdown scamper. Give Martinez a glimpse, and he’s gone. I questioned Pelini’s decision early, I remained unconvinced after the season-opening win over Western Kentucky; color me converted, and if there’s room on the bandwagon, let me aboard. Martinez looks like a long-term answer under center.
Speaking of taking advantage of small mistakes: when this Nebraska defense smells blood, well, it’s time to close up shop. Jake Locker, he of the unjustified early-season Heisman love, put forth one of the worst passing performance in recent F.B.S. history: 4 of 20 for 71 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions — 45 yards on one pass, when a blown coverage assignment allowed U.W.’s Jermaine Kearse to break open for a score.
Is the Nebraska defense this good — or is Jake Locker this bad? Let’s touch on the latter: no, Locker is terrific. He’s a work in progress as a passer, however, a fact the ABC broadcast team did a wonderful job of consistently reinforcing. Still more athlete than thrower, Locker’s transformation into an N.F.L.-ready quarterback will likely continue over his first two years on the next level. Steve Sarkisian remains hopeful, as well he should:
I think the first part of it is, this is the top pass defense in America. Those guys are really good; they were good. They’re playing with DBs all over the field. They made plays on the ball that I haven’t seen in a while… I don’t know if we’re going to see a better secondary than we saw today and I don’t know if people are going to apply more pressure than Nebraska did today so I’m not putting it all on Jake’s progress and him becoming the quarterback I know he can be.
As for Washington as a whole: keep the faith. The Huskies aren’t a Rose Bowl team, aren’t a top three team in a deep Pac-10; those who suggested otherwise prior to September were pushing forward the Sarkisian-led learning curve by at least one season. This a six-win team, perhaps a seven-win club when all is said and done. A good team, a solid team, and one that will continue to get better — and, potentially, one that can return the favor to the Cornhuskers when it heads to Lincoln next fall.
The story of the day, however, was Nebraska. The story was the play of a athletically-gifted redshirt freshman quarterback, a youngster that bears watching on a national stage. If yesterday proved anything, it’s that the Cornhuskers won’t be shook by a hostile crowd, by a crowd loud enough to shake a 90-year old stadium’s foundations, send the cameras all atwitter, test the mettle of the most battle-tested of teams.
So much for that. Nebraska proved unshakable, from top to bottom, following the lead of a poised redshirt freshman quarterback. Washington, on the other hand, must regroup as a team — beginning with its quarterback — in time for Pac-10 play.
Tags: Jake Locker, Nebraska, Taylor Martinez, Washington
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