The Quarterback Question

Husker QBs take turns

First of all, we knew Cody Green wouldn’t bring to the offense what Taylor Martinez does, right? That’s why Martinez is Nebraska’s starting quarterback and Green is a backup. So the Cornhuskers weren’t going to be as productive with Green starting, even against an Iowa State defense that ranked 102nd nationally, allowing well over 400 yards per game. Also, though Green was technically No. 2 on the depth chart, just ahead of Zac Lee, he had played briefly in only five games, most recently in the Big 12 opener at Kansas State. Green had thrown only 12 passes this season, completing seven for 79 yards. Against Iowa State, he completed, well, 7-of-12 passes for 79 yards (and one touchdown). How weird is that? The statistical oddity characterized a game in which the heavily favored Huskers left Jack Trice Field in Ames, Iowa, for the final time in the foreseeable future, with a 31-30 victory, thanks to Eric Hagg’s interception of a two-point conversion attempt on a fake place-kick in overtime. “I don’t care if you win 101-100. In the end, you have to win the football game,” says Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. “You find a way.” This time the Husker way wasn’t quite what it’s been most of this season, in part because Martinez watched from the sideline, with an ankle sprain that hadn’t completely healed. Martinez was the “emergency guy,” Pelini said afterward. The way the game developed, it looked to all the world as if it were an emergency. But Martinez got on the field for only one play, after Green went to the sideline, the wind knocked out of him, according to offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. Martinez lined up as a wide receiver, with running back Rex Burkhead taking a direct snap in a “Wildcat” formation. Burkhead often lined up in the “Wildcat” and rushed for a career-high 129 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. “It was amazing how much the pressure wasn’t on the quarterbacks to run the ball because obviously, we’re kind of dinged up at the quarterback position,” says Green. As for Lee, who stepped in after Martinez was injured late in the first half against Missouri, he couldn’t play because of an injury to his right hand, suffered when he hit a helmet in practice during the week. Nebraska’s quarterback situation wasn’t “the most ideal,” Pelini says. Internet message boards were abuzz with speculation about that situation by week’s end, and the Huskers’ pre-game warm-ups were carefully scrutinized from the press box. Martinez ran onto the field with a slight limp, or not. It was difficult to tell. And Lee wore a black sleeve on his right arm. Green and Latravis Washington were the only other quarterbacks who made the trip, even though the senior-day travel roster included 93 instead of the 70 the Big 12 otherwise allows. No Kody Spano. No Ron Kellogg III. And no Brion Carnes, who’s red-shirting anyway, right? At one point during warm-ups, Martinez took snaps from starting center Mike Caputo, while Green took snaps from Cole Pensick and Lee took snaps from Spencer Long. Business as usual; it looked as if Martinez probably would start. During passing drills, Lee retrieved balls and tossed them to Martinez, never throwing passes himself, an indication the rumors about his being injured might have substance. Throughout the week, Pelini indicated that whether Martinez started or even played would be a game-time decision. Green said it was “iffy” but added, “I guess they (coaches) really kind of made it clear earlier in the week that I’d be the guy.” Presumably, he meant he would be the guy “if” Martinez couldn’t go. However, when asked how early in the week he found out he would be the guy, Green said, “Tuesday, Wednesday, I guess really not that early, somewhere around there. It was not much of ‘if.’ It was kind of like ‘when,’ maybe, because they weren’t really sure how Taylor was.” Whatever, Nebraska managed only 314 yards, including 235 rushing. But it had one more point than the Cyclones on the scoreboard after Hagg picked off the pass thrown by holder Daniel Kuehl and intended for tight end Collin Franklin, who appeared to be open for an instant. “Eric’s play at the end of the game was amazing,” says Green. “And that basically solidified it.” The day of intrigue was at an end. “I don’t care how you do it; you enjoy it,” Pelini says.

posted at 10:44 pm
on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

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