The wait to see who QB1 will be for Nebraska will carry through until game-time on Friday.
Nebraska (1-3) coach Scott Frost met with the media Wednesday during halftime of the Husker hoops game (shoutout Frost for that) for the last time before his team takes on Iowa (3-2) during its annual Black Friday clash. He touched on what the quarterbacks have done in practice this week, but he stopped short of saying who would be the guy come kickoff.
Will it be redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey still, a starter for each of the last two games? Or will Nebraska go back to Adrian Martinez, a junior with more than 20 starts under his belt?
“Both of them had a really good week. We graded everything they did, every snap. Both executed better than they have in practice probably any week this year, so we’ve got a decision to make,” he said. “I’ve said all year I feel great about those guys, but they’ve got to play up to their potential. They’re both really talented kids that are more than capable of doing everything we need them to do to play well and win football games.”
Central to the decision for Frost will be how each makes decisions of their own in-game.
“We started the (Illinois) game off with a bad decision—a really bad decision—that took the air out of our tires last week,” he said. “A couple mistakes and turnovers in the red zone a few weeks ago against Northwestern. Those things cost you games in the Big Ten when they’re close games. It starts with the decision-making and making sure we don’t make any mistakes.”
McCaffrey fumbled the ball on Nebraska’s first play from scrimmage against Illinois. The lateral/forward pass was a judgement call from the officiating crew that went against the Huskers. It was one of his four turnovers on the day, as McCaffrey threw three more interceptions during the course of a 41-23 loss. He finished with 122 rushing yards on 26 carries, but he was only 15-for-26 for 134 yards as a passer.
Martinez’s last game—Nov. 7 in a 21-13 loss to now-No. 8 Northwestern—featured a 12-for-27 performance for 125 yards with 102 yards as a rusher on 13 carries.
The quarterback run game hasn’t been poor for Nebraska this season—McCaffrey and Martinez are the team’s two leading rushers—but the passing game has struggled to get off the ground. Combined, the two passers are completing 61.2% of their throws for 6.1 yards per attempt and eight picks against just two scores.
Nebraska will need one of them to get going against an Iowa defense that ranks third in the conference in yards per pass allowed, completion percentage allowed, and interceptions.
The Hawkeyes are also fifth nationally in yards per carry allowed. Nebraska has faced loaded boxes for weeks as opponents disregard the run game. Frost needs something to break.
The game Friday will kickoff at 12:00 p.m. CT on FOX.
Other Frost notes:
>> Senior running back Dedrick Mills appears to be a game-time decision. He missed the entirety of the Illinois game with an unspecified injury, and left in the first quarter of the Penn State game on Nov. 14. Mills has 31 carries on the season but has struggled to get going. In his absence, Nebraska has turned to Wan’Dale Robinson at running back.
Offensive coordinator Matt Lubick said on Tuesday that he traditionally likes to have four running backs to work with, and he feels like Nebraska has that with Mills, redshirt freshmen Ronald Thompkins and Rahmir Johnson, and then true freshmen Marvin Scott III and Sevion Morrison. Morrison has yet to make his debut this season. Scott is the leading rusher amongst that foursome of freshmen with 16 carries. Thompkins has five, Johnson has one.
On Mills, Frost said he has “practiced this week, so it’ll probably be close with him, but we’re hoping he can go.”
>> Center Cam Jurgens appears to be good to go after missing the second half of the Illinois game with a foot issue.
“It’s just tough on (senior right guard) Matt (Farniok) to have to jump back and forth to different things,” Frost said. “It’s tough to prepare all week at one spot and then end up at another spot. He’d be capable of playing three different positions for us and that’s what makes him so valuable, on top of the leadership we get from him. Cam’s looked great in practice this week so hopefully we won’t have that issue.”
Farniok has played center when Jurgens has had to leave the game. The backup center during practice is Matt’s younger brother, Will.
>> Inside linebacker Collin Miller, still recovering from what has been called a spinal concussion suffered during the Illinois game, will travel with the team to Iowa City for the game on Friday. His season is likely over, but the captain will still provide support however he can.
“Collin’s been the heart and soul of our team. We have some good leaders, he’s been the leader of that group,” Frost said. “Just the energy he brings on top of the playmaking. He’ll be traveling with us to the game, we’ll get the leadership from him. I’m just glad he’s gonna be OK long-term. Those are scary situations. Did a lot of praying for him, I just care so much about him, so we’ll function without him but it’s gonna be good to have him with us.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.