Husker offense explodes in Washington Late in the first half of Nebraska’s 56-21 victory at Washington it seemed like old times, when power football characterized the Cornhusker offense and linemen got their due. It was offense in black and white, not the vivid color of 1080p HD LED or plasma. Washington had just cut the lead to 21-14, scoring a touchdown two plays after recovering a fumble at the Nebraska 6-yard line. Husky Stadium was rocking. After a 39-yard kickoff return by Brandon Kinnie, the Huskers began first-and-10 at the Washington 48-yard line. From left tackle to right tackle, the interior of Nebraska’s offensive line looked like this: Jeremiah Sirles, Keith Williams, Mike Caputo, Ricky Henry, D.J. Jones. With them clearing the way, the Huskers repeatedly ran inside. Four Rex Burkhead carries for 7, 10, 9 and 3 yards, three Roy Helu, Jr. carries for 4, 6 and 8 yards and then, on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Taylor Martinez took the snap from Caputo and pushed into the end zone. “I thought that was a huge drive for us,” coach Bo Pelini said afterward. “I thought that really was the difference in the game. We took control of the line of scrimmage on that drive, went down, hammered it down there. I thought that was really big for our football team.” At day’s end, though certainly not forgotten, the drive was just one of many things that contributed to the Huskers’ moving up in the national rankings, to sixth in the Associated Press poll and seventh in the USA Today coaches’ poll — in which they even received one first-place vote. And no, Pelini did not cast it, though he is among those who vote. For the second consecutive week, Nebraska’s defense was outstanding, particularly against the pass. Washington’s Jake Locker, considered the top NFL prospect among college quarterbacks, endured one of the worst games of his career, completing only 4-of-20 passes, with two interceptions. Eric Hagg intercepted Locker’s first pass, to set the tone, and Alfonzo Dennard followed with another, which he returned 31 yards for a touchdown, midway through the third quarter. The Husker offense was again fast-starting and explosive. Just over four minutes into the game, Nebraska had run five plays from scrimmage and led 14-0. And Taylor Martinez, the redshirted freshman quarterback, again had played like, well, not a redshirted freshman, though Washington’s defense did manage to contain his running in the first half. On the first play of the second half, however, he ran 80 yards for a touchdown. The Huskers’ touchdown drive near the end of the second quarter showed what can happen when defenses key on Martinez. “We kind of expected it just because he’s had some really good success the past two games, so we had a plan for it,” said Burkhead. “The coaches did a great job of preparing us all week, and with the offensive line executing the way they did, it worked out well.” Nebraska rushed for 383 yards, with Martinez, Helu and Burkhead all reaching 100. There were other big plays, including a 65-yard touchdown run by Helu, but Nebraska showed it could pound the ball at the defense, too, on the drive near the end of the second quarter. Pelini has emphasized the need for a physical running game. “We’ve been trying to establish that up-front for the last three years,” offensive line coach Barney Cotton said. “Little-by-little, I think, we maybe chip away at it. We want to be a more physical line up-front. We want to be part of the answer up-front. So that’s been kind of our goal since we got past the bowl game last year.” Power running behind physical linemen is a Cornhusker characteristic, established long ago. But there was a drop-off during Bill Callahan’s coaching tenure. And Pelini wants it restored. “That’s kind of Nebraska tradition,” said Burkhead. Not kind of — it is. The Huskers put together another touchdown drive in that tradition midway through the fourth quarter, 11 plays, 80 yards, with the final 19 on a run by Burkhead. Nebraska didn’t need those points. The outcome had long since been decided. The drive was mostly an exclamation point, a kind of re-run of the drive near the end of the first half. “It feels great,” Burkhead said. “The offensive line loves it. And we love it.”

Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

Leave a comment