This has been quite the interesting week already in Lincoln, Neb., well before the Cornhuskers even get to Saturday’s game (noon ET, Big Ten Network) against Troy.
First, there were folks salivating over the possibility, however remote, that Nebraska and UCF could hastily arrange a game on Oct. 27 when both teams have a bye week. Weather woes scrubbed Nebraska’s Week 1 game against Akron and UCF’s scheduled game at North Carolina this Saturday was postponed because of a hurricane threat. It’s not likely to happen but the thought of Nebraska coach Scott Frost facing the team he just left in the offseason would be wild.
Then Frost said he was tired of talking about Adrian Martinez, and the hit his quarterback took last week against Colorado, and the freshman’s injury status. That tidbit leads us into the first of 5 things I’d like to see this week from Nebraska:
Health for Adrian Martinez
Whether the young man gets back on the football field this week, next week or sometime thereafter, it would be great to see Martinez fully healthy.
His status is unknown after his right knee was injured on a fourth-quarter hit last week against the Buffaloes. Martinez, listed as day-to-day, certainly excited Big Red Nation in his college debut and regardless of what happens at quarterback this weekend for Nebraska, all of college football is better when burgeoning young talents like Martinez can go at full bore.
Keep the pressure on
One of the best things to come out of the Colorado loss was that Nebraska’s defense, despite squandering a late lead, made some good plays. One of the biggest positives was that the Cornhuskers sacked the Buffaloes seven times and had 14 tackles for loss. Only 25 teams in the country have that many sacks, and the other 24 have played two games.
Troy’s offensive line is fairly young (only one senior starting) so Khalil Davis, Luke Gifford, Freedom Akinmoladun and company need to bring the heat on Trojans quarterback Kaleb Barker.
Lost in the hubbub about Martinez’s performance against Colorado was the fact that Greg Bell gained 104 yards on 13 carries. That kind of production at running back will be a big boost for the Cornhuskers no matter who is at quarterback.
Nebraska needs to be a bit old-fashioned, even in Frost’s fancy new offense, and pound the ball on the ground to take Troy out of the game.
Punt return prowess
Again, we have a small sample of stats to tell us anything. But Troy has allowed just 2 yards total on five punt returns through two games. Nebraska had minus-2 return yards on three punts against Colorado, all by Tyjon Lindsey.
If the Cornhuskers want to rack up a big play, a good way to do it would be to get the punt return game going. If this game goes as expected, Nebraska should field a fair number of punts so Big Red should get some opportunities.
Don’t take Troy lightly
This is worth repeating: Just because Troy is from the Sun Belt Conference — the weakest league in the Football Bowl Subdivision — that does not mean the Trojans will be a pushover.
Know how many FBS teams have at least 10 victories in each of the past two seasons? Just 13. One of them is Troy. This is a team which won at LSU last season and gave Clemson quite a tussle the year before. The Cornhuskers need to treat this like a serious opponent, because it is.