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'Luke and I make a great team': Adrian Martinez embraces Huskers' two-QB system

'Luke and I make a great team': Adrian Martinez embraces Huskers' two-QB system

Martinez and McCaffrey shared time at quarterback against Ohio State.

If nothing else came out of Nebraska's loss at Ohio State, one aspect of it was a hit: The two-quarterback system with Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey.

It was productive and smooth, NU coach Scott Frost said, in part because of the players' character and their affinity for one another.

There is no friction between the two guys, Frost said, and because they're two of the best players on the team, they're both going to play — sometimes in the same formation.

Martinez had 182 total yards. McCaffrey had 142, averaging 10.14 yards per attempt.

"Two good players who are good people, too, who are friends," Frost said. “I think they’re both rooting for each other, pulling for each other. And there’s a lot of situations where having both of them on the field gives us some of our best players out there.”

"Luke and I, I think we really make a great team," Martinez said. “We’re going to continue to build on that the rest of the year. We’re comfortable with that. We just want to win at the end of the day.”

One area Frost wants to see improvement: Ball security. Martinez (one) and McCaffrey (two) accounted for all three fumbles at Ohio State, and Martinez's fumble was returned for a touchdown.

"If we're going to ask our quarterbacks to run like running backs, they need to protect the ball like running backs," Frost said.

The Huskers have 58 fumbles since Frost arrived at Nebraska. That leads the Big Ten over that time span, and continues a problem that started well before Frost’s arrival, although fumbles took a sharp decline in Mike Riley’s three seasons.

Fumbles were also a problem for most of the offenses Frost worked with before his arrival at NU. Oregon had at least 20 fumbles in six of the seven seasons Frost worked with the Ducks — the 2013 team had 30, most in the Pac-12 — and Frost’s first team at Central Florida had 26 fumbles. Frost’s second UCF team, however, only had 10.

More quick notes from Monday's interviews with Frost and several Husker players: 

» Nebraska is still evaluating tight end Jack Stoll, who left the game with a knee injury. Frost said he feels good about NU's situation at tight end if Stoll can't play against Wisconsin. 

» Frost said NU is better at receiver than any time since he's been at Nebraska, but the young players capable of pushing the ball downfield need to keep coming. 

» Frost said he doesn't believe there's a process to appeal the targeting suspensions against Cam Taylor-Britt and Deontai Williams, so young players will have to step up in the secondary and elsewhere. 

» Frost said Wisconsin is good in part because "they know who they are on both sides of the ball," have an identity, and recruit and develop to it. The Badgers don't beat themselves easily, Frost said, and although NU has stacked a lot of yards in both the 2018 and 2019 games, they didn't score a lot of points.

» Frost doesn't anticipate Saturday's game with Wisconsin will be postponed because of quarterback Graham Mertz's positive COVID-19 test. Mertz is getting a confirmation test to determine if he's actually positive. Frost said Nebraska has had false positives, so he thought Mertz's test may be the same.  

» Nebraska is never OK with losing, Martinez said. The scoreboard is the scoreboard. 

That said, the Huskers were able to learn a few lessons — especially about finishing drives and games. 

"There were definitely some positives we can take away from it," Martinez said. "We were moving the ball when we shot ourselves in the foot." 

» Senior corner Dicaprio Bootle said cornerback Quinton Newsome, safety Myles Farmer and more "have to step up" with Taylor-Britt and Williams suspended for the first half against the Badgers.  

Bootle said Wisconsin's tight ends, led by Jake Ferguson — the grandson of UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez — are challenging because they can make plays in the pass game and block. 

"A guy like him, you've got to give him his respect," Bootle said of Ferguson, who had seven catches for 72 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-7 win over Illinois last week. 

Bootle said he could play safety on Saturday if he's needed. 

"I'm always working safety," Bootle said. He'll know later in the week how much of safety he'll play. 

» Husker offensive tackle Brenden Jaimes said Wisconsin has been "very well-coached, very disciplined" in his three games against Wisconsin, but Nebraska has "closed the gap" on the Badgers because of NU's "very efficient" run game.

"That'll be the plan going ahead," Jaimes said. NU rushed for 273 yards against the Badgers last season and 111 in 2018. 

Jaimes said Nebraska's offense has to have "11 guys doing 11 jobs to the best of their ability, and everything will work itself out." 

NU also needs to finish the second half the way it started the first half in Columbus, Jaimes said. 

The growth and development on the offensive line "is the best since I've been here," Jaimes said.

» NU defensive end Ben Stille said the Huskers' defensive line rotation — featuring several new players — helped the Huskers stay fresh. 

"I was proud of those guys getting their feet wet," Stille said. He also liked the variety of his role, especially as it relates to pass rushing from an interior line position rather than rushing from the outside. 

Stille wasn't happy with the end result in Columbus, though. 

"The scoreboard is what it was and that's the ultimately the indicator," Stille said. "We lost by (35)."

Stille said Wisconsin is "good up front" on offense. 

» Nebraska inside linebacker Will Honas said NU's run fits were "on point" Saturday against Ohio State, and Wisconsin's run scheme is even more difficult to slow down because of the "window dressing pre-snap" and the physicality with which the Badgers play. Honas, who had seven tackles Saturday, said he feels healthy without any knee pain. 

"I think it'll show on the field," Honas said. 

As a defensive unit, Honas said Nebraska was "probably more physical throughout the game, especially against the run" than it was last season. The addition of Husker analyst Bill McGovern, a close friend of outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson and a longtime college and NFL linebackers coach, has improved NU's detailing. 

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