Published Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:30 am
FOOTBALL
Martinez grabs command of offense
Nebraska at Iowa
When: 11 a.m. Friday
Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
TV: ABC
Radio: 1110 AM KFAB

LINCOLN — It was third down and Minnesota was preparing to blitz. Three extra defenders were inching toward the line of scrimmage, purposefully flinching to emphasize their intent.

So quarterback Taylor Martinez looked to the Husker sideline and got a new play.

The Gophers countered the adjustment. They backed everyone but their four defensive linemen away from the point of attack.

But before the Minnesota players had backpedaled to their traditional positions, Martinez was already looking toward his coaches again. He knew this sort of cat-and-mouse game was coming. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck, in a late-morning meeting with his unit, went over the tactic — and Nebraska's planned response — hours before last Saturday's game.

The result of the play was junior receiver Quincy Enunwa hauling in a 29-yard pass between a safety and a cornerback — a textbook puncturing of the Cover 2 defense Martinez figured he'd be facing as soon as he recognized Minnesota backing out of a third-down blitz.

“It was perfect,” Enunwa said of the second-quarter call.

Of course, things don't always unfold as planned.

Opponents have, at times, deviated from their tendencies and unveiled various blitz packages to combat the Huskers' versatile attack, Beck said. They've tried to confuse Martinez, succeeding on a few occasions (his third interception against Michigan State on Oct. 27 was a misread).

“It happens a few times a game,” Martinez said. “Sometimes a defense catches us off guard and you've just got to go with the moment.”

Those instances seem to be occurring less frequently, though.

Armed with a deceptive no-huddle system and detailed scouting reports, Martinez has seemed to direct traffic with more effectiveness during Nebraska's five-game winning streak.

He still makes mistakes — completing 61 percent of his passes and throwing four interceptions in the past five games. His footwork and throwing mechanics don't always match the desired blueprint, either.

BIG RED TODAY ON FACEBOOK
Join the conversation on the Big Red Today Facebook page.

But Martinez has adjusted his mentality as he's searched for the proper balance between game-manager and game-changer.

“You can't go for the home run shot every time,” Martinez said. “You've just got to play within the game. If you do that, big plays will happen.”

Senior Ben Cotton indicated that he's noticed Martinez developing a better recognition of in-game strategy as he advances deeper into Beck's schematic principles. That's led to more confidence and poise, senior Kyler Reed said.

Beck said there's more back-and-forth dialogue between him and Martinez, increasing the level of trust from both.

“If there's something he doesn't like, he's going tell me,” Beck said.

Backup quarterback Ron Kellogg III said Martinez has been carrying himself with a little more purpose this year. It used to be that Kellogg would call Martinez to watch game film. It's the other way around now.

“It seems like he wants it more this year,” Kellogg said.

Martinez's play reflects that.

He's the Big Ten's total offense leader, averaging 292 yards per game. He's been the league's offensive player of the week four times this season. His big-play potential and late-game heroics are a big reason why.

But there are more subtle elements that have led to Martinez's success, coach Bo Pelini said. Martinez continues to improve.

“His decision-making, his command, getting us in and out of plays, how he's handled the offense and how he's taking control out there,” Pelini said. “We wouldn't be in this position if he wasn't playing at such a high level.”

Contact the writer:

402-473-9585, jon.nyatawa@owh.com, twitter.com/JonNyatawa

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa

jon.nyatawa@owh.com    |   402-473-9585    |  

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football and baseball, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008.

Read more related stories
PHOTO GALLERY AND VIDEO »

 

< >
SPOTLIGHT »
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Omaha.com? Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.
Omaha.com's Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from Omaha.com and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Steam-A-Way Carpet Cleaning
$50 for 3 rooms and a Hallway up to 600 square feet
Buy Now
BRT ON TWITTER »
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT »
< >