MINNEAPOLIS — Nebraska will have its top receiving threat, junior JD Spielman, available Saturday when it takes on 5-0 Minnesota on the road, but it seems it will not have its starting quarterback, sophomore Adrian Martinez.
Both made the trip to Minnesota, but Martinez is not expected to play against the Gophers. He left last weekend’s 13-10 win over Northwestern after three quarters with a knee injury. Head coach Scott Frost wouldn’t address the severity of the issue, but the star quarterback went through practice during the week, meaning the Fresno native seems to have avoided something serious.
Third-year sophomore Noah Vedral is expected to draw his first career start.
Vedral completed two of his five throws in the fourth quarter against Northwestern for 41 yards, then added another 33 yards on the ground through seven carries. The signature moment came when Vedral hit freshman wideout Wan’Dale Robinson on a back-shoulder throw down the right sideline for 32 yards to set up Nebraska’s game-winning field goal as time expired.
“We feel comfortable if we have to go with Noah,” Frost said Monday.
The Wahoo, Nebraska, native began his college career at UCF with Frost and quarterback coach Mario Verduzco, where he backed up McKenzie Milton. As a freshman in 2017, he went 22-of-29 passing for 276 yards and a score with no picks.
Frost said he knew Vedral’s family and two uncles, both Nebraska alums, Jon Vedral and Matt Turman, so Vedral was already on his radar, but he appreciated the young quarterback’s athleticism and approach to the position.
“He's just got the right mentality,” Frost said. “We saw something in him and he hasn't disappointed us. He's been a really good player, and if it is his turn to play on Saturday, I feel great about him."
Nebraska’s offense so far this season has struggled to move the ball consistently throughout games. Decision-making by Martinez — who is currently completing 60% of his throws (down from last season) and has five interceptions through six games — has oft been criticized. Vedral said that’s an area of his game where he feels strong.
“I take pride in making quick, decisive decisions,” he said. “Then once that decision is made, it’s making it work the best that I can. That’s what I’ve done for the last two and a half years of my career, and that is what I will continue to do. That’s what I think is what I do best.”
Vedral has the benefit of being in this offense longer than any single player on Nebraska’s roster. Minneapolis is expected to see a mixture of rain and snow as the night moves along, and wind will be a factor to deal with as well, so being smart with the football will be a must.
Other News and Notes
>> Spielman also left last week's game in the first half with an undisclosed injury, but Nebraska will have its leading receiver. Whether he actually plays, and in what capacity, remains to be seen.
Spielman is averaging 19.5 yards per catch on the season, with 21 grabs but only one score. He's been Martinez's safety blanket, but a lot of Spielman's usage has featured contested catches and runs after the catch. He's taken beatings as a result. The Minnesota native only got one catch against Ohio State on Sept. 28, ending a 25-game streak to begin his career of games with multiple catches, but in the two games sandwiching that Buckeye game — Illinois and Northwestern — Spielman has been battered and bruised.
Still, this is a homecoming for him. If he feels right, expect him to try and play.
>> As expected, walk-on kicker Matt Waldoch made the trip to Minnesota. He has yet to play for Nebraska after being added from the UNL club soccer team, but Frost was noncommittal this week when talking about who would draw the start at the position.
Lane McCallum, who kicked the game-winner last week against Northwestern, is also on hand.
>> Sophomore wideout Kade Warner dressed to play for Nebraska. The Husker coaching staff has been waiting on the walk-on receiver seemingly all season. Warner fractured his foot in fall camp and missed the first four games of the season. He debuted against Ohio State but has yet to make a catch. Offensive coordinator Troy Walters said this week Warner is as close to healthy as he’s been all season and a guy who earned the trust of Nebraska’s quarterbacks throughout the offseason. If he’s able to get on the field, that could prove significant, as the Huskers only have three wideouts with more than three catches this season.
>> Nebraska didn’t release its travel roster until right before kickoff. Here’s who was on it.
The Huskers brought four players with them to Minnesota who did not travel to Illinois, the team’s last road game: Waldoch, Warner, senior wideout Jaron Woodyard and freshman defensive back Myles Farmer. They took the spots of running back Wyatt Mazour, freshman defensive back Javin Wright and walk-on wideouts Todd Honas and Bennett Folkers.
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.