Photo by Eric Francis
Nebraska Football

Huskers Offense Puts it All Together in Win Over Gophers

October 21, 2018
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Day by day.

That’s the mantra that Scott Frost has been stressing ever since he arrived in Lincoln. On Saturday, the process finally resulted in a win thanks in large part to an offensive explosion.

The Huskers racked up 659 yards at a ridiculous 9 yards a pop. Nebraska put up 383 yards on the ground and 276 through the air, and this time, they converted those yards into points with seven touchdowns and a field goal. In total Nebraska scored 53 points, its highest total against a conference opponent since joining the Big Ten.

All of Troy Walters’ best #PlayMak6rs showed up on Saturday.

Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez was a flat-out stud. He accounted for 401 yards by himself in one of the best single-game performances by a quarterback in school history. Martinez completed 25 of his 29 passes (86.2 percent) for 276 yards and three touchdowns.

“I just really like him as a person,” Coach Scott Frost said about his freshman signal caller. “I had no idea he was 25-of-29. Those are senior numbers, those aren’t 18-year-old numbers. I’m glad he’s here.”

Martinez showed off the scrambling ability that makes him so special early in the second quarter. On second-and-7, Martinez had the presence of mind to hang in the pocket until the last possible second before putting his legs to use.

He pulled the ball down and stepped past the outstretched arm of the defensive lineman who was in his lap and forced him out of the pocket in the first place. He turned on the jets and ran between two defenders closing in before bouncing it outside. He avoided the diving tackle attempt by linebacker Kamal Martin and angled toward the sideline.

Freshman running back Maurice Washington took out a defender who was right on Martinez’s heels with a brutal block and got his quarterback an extra 7 yards. By the time he stepped out of bounds, he had picked up 22 yards.

Nebraska continued to march down the field from there and Martinez finished off the drive with a walk-in touchdown to put the Huskers up 21-0. 

Martinez got it done with his arm as well, and the Big Ten hasn’t seen the kind of dual-threat yardage he put up on Saturday since Michigan’s Denard Robinson.

As I wrote in Three-and-Out this week, Stanley Morgan Jr. was the man for Nebraska and Martinez’s favorite receiver, catching 10-of-13 targets for 163 yards and two scores.

When Nebraska needed to snap Minnesota’s streak of 22 straight points, Frost went to the Martinez-to-Morgan connection. A couple of big runs by Washington set the Huskers up with a first-and-10 from the Minnesota 35, and Frost called his shot. 

Martinez lined up in the slot with JD Spielman to the outside, reversing their typical roles.

"They moved me around more,” Morgan said. “It's kind of tough being out there underneath over-the-top coverage. It's kind of tough to get the ball out there. So the coaches just moved me around more and just put more emphasis on that, and I appreciate them for that."

Spielman ran a quick out while Morgan ran a post route, and the defensive back over the top got stuck on an island he wanted no part of. Martinez put the ball right on the money for a wide open Morgan and the senior receiver hauled it in, crossing the goal line untouched.

“It was something the coaching staff drew up in a game plan going against these guys,” Martinez said. “The concept wasn’t necessarily new, we kind of meshed two things together, and it worked perfectly. There were a couple instances where Coach Frost just called the perfect play. I’m thankful to have a guy like that behind some of the plays we put out there on the field.”

Martinez wasn’t the only Husker who crossed the century mark on the ground, however. In fact, both of Nebraska’s primary running backs joined him in that club, giving the Huskers three 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since 2010.

Senior Devine Ozigbo carried the ball 12 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a ridiculous 12.7 yards-per-carry average. It’s the third time in his last four games he has rushed for more than 150 yards.

Ozigbo got the Huskers on the board first, capping off Nebraska’s first drive with a 40-yard touchdown run.

On second-and-3, Nebraska lined up with two receivers tight to the left and one to the right plus tight end Jack Stoll. Martinez handed off to Ozigbo as right tackle Matt Farniok set the edge and receiver Kade Warner sought out a linebacker. The only defender left in the area got sucked too far inside and Ozigbo bounced it outside and angled towards the pylon, easily avoiding a desperation diving tackle attempt. From there it was a race to the end zone between Ozigbo and defensive back Jacob Huff, and the slimmed-down version of Ozigbo won that contest easily.

In the blink of an eye, Nebraska was up 7-0.

“Devine was in a three-way battle at running back,” Frost said. “He wasn’t a starter at the beginning of the season. He has been a really good player and workhorse for us. He is a Sunday guy. I think our strength and conditioning staff has helped him. He is a step faster and he has been making big plays for us. He has become a leader.”

The other 100-yard rusher was Washington, the dynamic freshman who ran the ball 14 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. Late in the first half, Washington and Ozigbo teamed up to put the Huskers up two scores late in the first quarter.

Nebraska started its drive from the 10-yard line and a couple of short completions gave the Huskers some breathing room and a new set of downs at the 24-yard line. That’s when Frost got creative. Nebraska pulled off a perfectly executed Statue of Liberty play.

Nebraska put two receivers to the right and flanked Martinez with a back on either side of him. The quarterback faked the quick out then subtly held the ball back behind him for Washington to snag and take off. A defender from the secondary sniffed out the play and ran up in run support, but Washington proved to be too fast and ran right around and past the Gopher.

He ran up the sideline then cut it inside of left tackle Brenden Jaimes out looking to throw a block near the line to gain. A defender finally tackled the freshman from behind, but not before he picked up 17 yards.

On the next play, Nebraska lined up with a receiver to either side, tight end Kurt Rafdal to the right and both running backs in the backfield again. Washington motioned out to the left side while Martinez handed off to Ozigbo and the big back ran to the right. Farniok, Rafdal and receiver Mike Williams all threw key blocks and Ozigbo made the last guy miss all by himself with a slight turn back towards the inside to avoid a diving tackle attempt. 

From there, it was a foot race once again between Ozigbo and Huff and once again it was the Husker who won it. The 59-yard touchdown run was the longest run of Ozigbo’s career and it put him over 100 yards for the day on his third carry of the game.

Nebraska’s offense has shown flashes all season long (minus the Michigan game) and on Saturday, the Huskers finally put it all together. The Huskers got big performances from all of their offensive stars and the result was a 25-point win.

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Huskers Offense Puts it All Together in Win Over Gophers

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