S. Dakota State-Nebraska Preview
Led by its young star quarterback, Nebraska sprinted through its
first major test of the season last week. This week’s game could be
even less challenging.
After an impressive road victory, Taylor Martinez and the
sixth-ranked Cornhuskers try to wrap up non-conference play
unbeaten for the first time since 2005 when they host winless FCS
opponent South Dakota State on Saturday night.
Martinez opened the scoring in a 56-21 rout at Washington last
Saturday with a touchdown pass, but again was more potent on the
ground with 137 yards and three TDs on 19 carries.
Through three games, the freshman has completed 28 of 43 passes
for 392 yards, but he’s seventh among FBS rushers with 421 and
leads the nation with eight rushing touchdowns. While putting his
name among the early Heisman Trophy candidates, Martinez is
matching the exploits of the school’s previous winner.
He’s the first Nebraska quarterback to top 100 rushing yards in
three consecutive games since Eric Crouch did so to conclude his
2001 Heisman-winning campaign. Crouch also had four such games in a
row earlier that same season.
Martinez’s 80-yard TD run to open the second half against
Washington was the second-longest by a quarterback in school
history behind Crouch’s 95-yarder in 2001. That helped boost
Martinez’s average to 10.5 yards per carry – second-best in the
“We put him in there because that’s what we thought he could be.
He’s an explosive athlete,” coach Bo Pelini said. “The most
exciting thing about it is he’s got a long way to go. There’s so
many areas where he can get better at. As he goes and keeps
progressing, we can be even more exciting.”
Trying to ascend back to its former height as a national power,
Nebraska (3-0) is using a familiar formula. The Huskers are fourth
in the FBS with 344.0 rushing yards per game. Roy Helu and Rex
Burkhead also topped 100 yards in the win over Washington.
Nebraska also is among the top 25 teams nationally in total
defense and points allowed. Last week, the Huskers defense handed
potential first-round draft pick Jake Locker one of his worst
career performances – 4 of 20 for 71 yards and two
Alfonzo Dennard returned one of those 31 yards for a touchdown.
Dennard and P.J. Smith have accounted for half of the team’s eight
interceptions, which ties Nebraska for second in the FBS behind
Nebraska’s power on both sides of the ball might prove to be too
much for the Jackrabbits (0-2), who will face the Huskers for the
second time in school history.
Following its first FCS playoff appearance in 2009, South Dakota
State began this season ranked in the top 10 in a pair of polls but
has been outscored 50-17 in its first two games. The Jackrabbits
trailed 24-0 after three quarters last Saturday against visiting
Illinois State before scoring their first two touchdowns of the
season in the fourth of a 24-14 loss.
Senior Kyle Minett was one of the few bright spots with 120
yards on 18 carries after being held to 32 on 14 attempts in the
season opener at Delaware.
In 1963, South Dakota State, then a Division II program, sent 35
players to Lincoln and left with a 58-7 loss. With more parity
showing recently among the NCAA’s top two levels, Pelini said he
won’t take anything for granted.
“We’re going to treat this like any other game. If we don’t,
then we might have problems,” he said. “You look across the board;
(FCS) is pretty good. When they come to play an (FBS) opponent,
those players are out to prove they belong.”
This game is Nebraska’s first against an FCS opponent since a
56-7 win over Nicholls State in 2006.
The Huskers were 3-0 in non-conference play in 2005 and
previously finished 4-0 in 2003.