09.24.2010 / Huskers show poise and signs of glory. Blog posting by Mike Babcock, Huskers Illustrated Magazine.
You know Jake Locker did not return to Washington for his senior season to do this. The Huskies quarterback could have declared for the NFL draft and been a first round pick, and an early one, at that. But he decided to come back for one more collegiate season.
"We have got great fans here, and bringing that many people, I think, shows a statement about what Nebraska football is all about. - Bo Pelini "
That decision led to high expectations for coach Steve Sarkisian’s second season in Seattle. Plus, Locker was considered a serious Heisman Trophy candidate. That candidacy took a hit in a 23-17 opening-game loss against BYU. But the Nebraska game was an opportunity for redemption.
Such was the context for the Cornhuskers’ 56-21 victory. There was no redemption for Locker, quite the contrary. He endured one of the least effective performances of his career, completing only 4-of-20 passes for 71 yards, with 45 of those coming on one play that went for a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions, the second of which Alfonzo Dennard returned for a touchdown. The first, by Eric Hagg, came on the first pass Locker threw, foreshadowing what was to come.
While Locker was struggling, Taylor Martinez, Nebraska’s redshirted freshman quarterback, was again showing his ability to deal with pressure that would paralyze many young players. Husky Stadium was to provide the loud and hostile environment that would reveal his limitations. But it didn’t. And coach Bo Pelini didn’t have to wait for the opening kickoff to find out. “I kind of had a sigh of relief when I saw him before the game,” said Pelini. “You can kind of feel where a guy’s mindset is, what his demeanor is. And he looked pretty locked in.”
So were Martinez’s teammates. He was among three who rushed for 100 yards, 80 of them coming on the first play from scrimmage in the second half for the third of his three touchdowns. Roy Helu, Jr. and Rex Burkhead were the other Huskers who ran for 100 yards. “Those guys were on tonight, and I was going to ride them,” running backs coach Tim Beck said.
As for the environment at Husky Stadium, it was loud all right. But there was plenty of red. “We had like 30,000 fans, I would say,” Martinez told reporters afterward.
More likely, there were 20,000 Husker fans, still a hefty number. “I heard a comment behind me on the first bus when we were coming in, when we saw all that red, as we were coming into the stadium, and they said, ‘Is this a home game?’ That just goes to show you the kind of support we get,” said Pelini. “We have got great fans here, and bringing that many people, I think, shows a statement about what Nebraska football is all about."
Now seeing what Nebraska has done against a good quarterback, what are your predictions for the upcoming games?
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