Fresno St.-Nebraska Preview
Nebraska and Fresno State broke in four new starters on their offensive lines last week to different results.
The 10th-ranked Cornhuskers were victorious while the Bulldogs went down to defeat, and both are looking for improvement heading into their first-ever meeting Saturday night in Lincoln.
Nebraska played its first game as a Big Ten member last Saturday in a 40-7 victory over overmatched Chattanooga. Second-year starter Taylor Martinez rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns and was 11 of 22 for 116 yards passing.
Martinez played for the first time under the no-huddle system implemented by new offensive coordinator Tim Beck that features a lot of triple-option and short passes. While Martinez showed no signs of the toe and ankle injuries that hampered him last season while running, he realizes he can fare better within the passing game.
"I think I did all right," Martinez said. "I could have done a lot better at hitting the receivers, leading them a little more because I kind of threw it behind them, but I think I did decent."
Right tackle Tyler Moore became the first freshman lineman to start an opener for Nebraska, joining three other new starters.
"I think the line showed some good things at some times, but they need a lot of improvement," coach Bo Pelini said.
Fresno State coach Pat Hill can relate after he broke in four new starters on his offensive line in last Saturday's 36-21 loss to California. His unit became even more inexperienced when junior center Richard Helepiko left with an ankle injury, and was replaced by freshman Cody Wichman.
"Our center went down early in the game, and we had to make three moves. We weren't intact," Hill said. "We had a guard at center, and Cody came in and did a good job for a freshman at tackle. We don't have the kind of depth you'd like to have there."
A rough performance by the line resulted in four sacks of new quarterback Derek Carr, the brother of former Bulldogs star David Carr. Derek Carr finished 21 for 33 for 142 yards in his highly anticipated debut.
"Coming into the game, I knew I had to be tough. I knew I had to get back up," Carr said. "I give myself an 'F.'"
Hill said he probably should have emphasized the running game more after Robbie Rouse gained 86 yards on 17 carries. It won't be easy to get untracked against a Nebraska defense that limited Chattanooga to 1.9 yards per carry and 230 yards of total offense.
"We are going to have to be at the best we've been in some time against Nebraska, so there's plenty of things as coaches and players to work on to meet that goal and to go into Nebraska with a game plan to win this game," Hill said.
The Bulldogs have dropped six straight meetings against top-10 opponents since a 44-24 win over then-No. 10 Oregon State in 2001. The Huskers are anticipating a tough matchup nevertheless, since Fresno State has won 17 of its last 33 games against BCS opponents.
"The venue isn't going to bother them," Pelini said. "They've played in a lot of different places against a lot of good football teams. They've held their own and won a lot of football games. We have to step it up this week and I think our team knows that."
Nebraska linebacker Will Compton is day to day with an injured right foot suffered last week while cornerback Alfonzo Dennard's strained right leg muscle is improving. Dennard hasn't practiced since getting hurt Aug. 17, and it's unclear if he will make his season debut.
The Huskers have won 21 straight meetings against Western Athletic Conference foes since a 6-0 loss to Hawaii in 1955.