Nebraska hoping Martinez heals up for key stretch
Nebraska is entering its second bye week in a month, and no one in the Cornhuskers' camp is complaining about the extra time off.
The Huskers did what they were supposed to do Saturday against the Big Ten's weakest team, winning 44-7 at Purdue. If nothing else, the game showed they really could use injured quarterback Taylor Martinez healthy for the challenging November stretch that will determine whether they return to the Big Ten championship game.
Nebraska (5-1, 2-0) is tied with Michigan State for first in the Legends Division after Michigan's loss at Penn State. The Huskers visit the Wolverines on Nov. 9 and play Michigan State at home the following week. A trip to Penn State comes after that.
''We need to use the next two weeks heading into the second half of the year the way we used the last bye week,'' coach Bo Pelini said. ''I think we made some big strides during that week. There's a lot more out there for this team in every phase. Now it's time to move forward, roll up our sleeves and go back to work.''
The bye week will give the Huskers time to heal up and possibly reset their offensive line.
All-Big Ten right guard Spencer Long injured his left knee on the Huskers' fifth play from scrimmage when Purdue defensive end Ryan Russell's right leg cut across Long's left as Russell tackled Tommy Armstrong Jr. Mike Moudy replaced Long, who was to undergo an MRI on Sunday.
Receiver Sam Burtch was knocked out of the game in the first half with an upper-body injury, the result of a collision on a pass play. Tight end Cethan Carter was shaken up in the first half when he fell awkwardly after catching a pass.
Armstrong, the redshirt freshman who drew praise for his first two starts against South Dakota State and Illinois, threw three interceptions and completed only 6 of 18 passes in the Huskers' first road game.
Third-stringer Ron Kellogg III was 10 of 13 for 141 yards against the Boilermakers, but the fifth-year senior has appeared in only eight games in his career and has never taken a meaningful snap against a high-quality opponent.
Martinez continues to wear a walking boot on his left foot to protect his turf-toe injury. He hasn't played or practiced since Sept. 14. Pelini said Martinez's injury is improving, but he couldn't say if the quarterback would be ready for the Oct. 26 game at Minnesota.
''Trust me, I have a lot of confidence in Tommy and Ronny,'' Pelini said.
Armstrong and Kellogg had to adjust on the fly to some unconventional defensive alignments Purdue hadn't shown previously. Pelini also noted that Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa dropped what would have been touchdown passes.
''Obviously, I'd like to have Taylor back,'' Pelini said. ''When that happens, I don't know. When he feels ready, he'll be back in there - when he's able to be Taylor and push off (with his left foot) and perform the way he needs to perform. Until then, I feel confident we can win with Tommy and Ronny.''