Taylor Martinez’s legs have always been his strong suit, and the Nebraska junior drew snickers around the Cornhusker State when he said his goal for the season was to complete 70 percent of his passes.
One game in, Martinez is the one laughing now.
The former run-first quarterback completed 26-of-34 passes for 349 yards and five touchdowns, but it wasn’t just the stats that were impressive. Martinez had awful footwork his first two years, frequently throwing off his back foot, which made the downfield passing game virtually non-existent.
But he worked with a personal quarterback coach in the offseason and attended the Manning Passing Academy over the summer, the desire being to not allow opponents to stack the box against the Huskers’ vaunted rushing attack.
His throwing motion still won’t remind anyone of Peyton or Eli, but he had much better accuracy on longer throws. Martinez’s touchdown passes (26, 9, 29, 18 and 11 yards) were almost all downfield throws. He only ran the ball five times for zero yards.
Two-thirds of Nebraska’s plays in 2011 were on the ground, with the majority of carries going to Rex Burkhead, who sprained his MCL yesterday and could be out going forward.
On Saturday, the Huskers threw the ball 34 times and ran it 44, but the numbers were dead even before they started running out the clock in the fourth quarter. The 49-20 final score soared over the total of 51.5, so look for an adjustment by oddsmakers for the Week 2 matchup between Nebraska and UCLA.
As a sophomore last season, Martinez never threw for more than 289 yards or more than two touchdowns in any game. If his arm has truly become a weapon, the Huskers’ new multi-dimensional offense could carry them to a Big Ten title.
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OREGON HOME GAMES are an oddsmaker’s worst nightmare. The over/under for last night’s Arkansas State-Oregon matchup opened at 62, which was absurdly low. From there, it rose to 65, then 68, before closing at 70 or 71.
All the numbers were too low. All of ‘em.
Playing with new quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Ducks had a 50-3 lead by the 7:06 mark of the second quarter. They hit the brakes from there, inserting all backups and scoring only one more touchdown in a 57-34 victory, but the game surpassed the total with more than 11 minutes remaining.
The over is now 18-4 in Oregon’s games at Autzen Stadium since Chip Kelly took over in 2009.
Mariota was nearly perfect (18-of-22, 200 yards, 3 TD) in his debut, and De’Anthony Thomas proved he’s a threat to score every time he gets the ball (7 touches, 119 yards, 3 TD). With all the starters in the game, the Ducks averaged 9.8 yards per play and took an average of 1 minute, 21 seconds to score their first six touchdowns.
Oregon’s next home game against Fresno State will open with a total in the 70s. And it’ll probably be too low.
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CASE KEENUM NEVER had fewer than 304 passing yards or worse than a 61.2 completion percentage in 14 starts for Houston last season. His replacement, sophomore David Piland, went 17-for-44 (38.6%) for 211 yards in the Cougars’ embarrassing 30-13 defeat to Texas State on Saturday.
In college football, it’s arguable whether it’s tougher to replace a record-setting quarterback or an innovative head coach. One thing is sure, though: You don’t want to be in a position where you’re replacing both.
Keenum is busy on the Texans practice squad, while former coach Kevin Sumlin is at Texas A&M, leaving this Houston offense as a shell of its former self.
The Cougars ranked in the top four nationally in total offense every season Keenum was fully healthy. The defense was never a priority, but now it’s questionable whether they’ll be able to simply outscore most of their opponents.
Piland went 2-6 as a starter when Keenum got hurt in 2010, and last night was even worse. At one point in the second half, he misfired on 13 of 14 passes. Tony Levine, the former special teams and wide receivers coach who took over after Sumlin’s departure, said he has no plans to bench Piland but that the downfield passing game was “probably the worst I’ve seen since I’ve been here five years.”
Texas State gained 5.8 yards per play (a fairly pedestrian number), but Houston was at just 4.9.
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SPEAKING OF QUARTERBACK issues, Texas failed to cover as 31-point favorites in a 37-17 victory over Wyoming, and much of the blame from fans would probably point toward quarterback David Ash.
Coach Mack Brown said he “really liked the presence out there” from Ash, who wasn’t asked to do much, completing 20-of-27 passes for 156 yards (5.8 yards per attempt). The Longhorns had almost twice as many runs (47) as passes (28), as both Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron topped 100 yards.
None of Ash’s completions went for longer than 16 yards.
Brown doesn’t seem to want Ash to be much more than a facilitator for all the playmakers on the Longhorns’ offense, but it’ll be tough for them to cover large spreads this year if there are no big plays generated from the passing offense.