No. 10 Nebraska 40, Chattanooga 7
The offense is new, but there's no doubt Nebraska relies on the same guy to make it go.
Taylor Martinez ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns out of the no-huddle system and the No. 10 Cornhuskers beat Chattanooga 40-7 Saturday in their first game as Big Ten members.
Martinez showed no signs of the toe and ankle injuries that limited him the second half of last season. He scored on runs of 7, 43 and 47 yards and completed 11 of 22 passes for 116 yards before giving way to Brion Carnes in the fourth quarter.
''I thought early in the game Taylor was very anxious. He was putting a lot of pressure on himself,'' coach Bo Pelini said. ''He didn't get a lot of help around him at times. We had some busts around him, but overall, not a bad day.''
The Huskers' new system under first-year offensive coordinator Tim Beck revealed lots of triple-option plays and quick short passes.
Old-school Nebraska fans surely loved Beck's first call of the game. Tyler Legate's 1-yard run marked the first time a fullback had carried the ball for Nebraska since 2004.
But make no mistake, this offense is built around Martinez's strengths as a runner. He carried 19 times, which might be a bit more than ideal for a quarterback the Huskers desperately need to keep healthy.
''I didn't know how many times I ran,'' Martinez said. ''It's pretty much based on what the defense is running and giving us.''
Rex Burkhead added 75 yards and a touchdown and the Cornhuskers had 364 total yards as they won their 26th consecutive opener, the longest streak in the nation.
The Huskers lost yards on seven plays in the first half and on five more in the second. Martinez dropped a snap, made a bad pitch under pressure and had Burkhead bump into him from behind as he set up to pass.
''We came out a little slow and weren't clicking,'' Burkhead said. ''We have a lot of things to improve upon as a team to be where we want to be. If we want to be good in the Big Ten, we have to improve on them every day.''
The Huskers started three underclassmen on the offensive line for the first time in three years. Right tackle Tyler Moore became the freshman lineman ever to start an opener for Nebraska.
Martinez ran for three or more touchdowns for the fourth time in his 14 career games, but Saturday's were his first since in nine games.
''Martinez, how many third downs did we have? He scrambles up the middle and gets a first down,'' Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. ''He needs 10 yards, he gets 12. That is what good players do.''
Burkhead set up Martinez's first TD by turning a pitch into a career-long 52-yard run to the Chattanooga 7.
Martinez's next touchdown looked a lot like others scored by Nebraska's option quarterbacks of yesteryear. With Legate trailing to his left, Martinez cut around the left corner and turned around Chattanooga's Kadeem Wise on his way to a 43-yard run that put Nebraska up 20-0.
Martinez extended the lead to 40-7 in the third quarter when he faked a handoff and ran 47 yards untouched.
The Huskers showed they have a capable replacement for Alex Henery, the most accurate kicker in NCAA history.
Brett Maher, who passed on scholarship offers from Colorado State and Ohio to walk on at Nebraska, kicked a 50-yard field goal into a gusty north wind and added 48-, 34- and 21-yarders.
The Mocs scored their only points on the first series of the second half, with Marlon Anthony catching a 13-yard TD pass from B.J. Coleman after cornerback Andrew Green fell.
Chattanooga picked up some decent gains at times but couldn't get consistently move against a defense that has allowed under 11 points a game at home since 2009.
''I thought our guys played extremely hard and they didn't back down the whole game,'' Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. ''The best part of it was for 60 minutes we went toe-to-toe. Man, our guys fought.''
Coleman was 19 of 33 for 174 yards, with one interception.
The Huskers sacked Coleman three times. Their biggest defensive play came when the Mocs were backed up against their goal line and Cameron Meredith intercepted a pass that Jared Crick tipped at the line. The play set up Burkhead's touchdown.
Nebraska was the next in a line of major powers to play Chattanooga. The Mocs lost to the last two national champions, 62-24 at Auburn last year and 45-0 at Alabama in 2009, and 57-2 in 2008 against BCS runner-up Oklahoma.
The Mocs can look forward to playing South Florida, Alabama and Tennessee the next three years.