The Nebraska Cornhuskers, arguably the most highly scrutinized 2-0 team in recent memory, wanted to accomplish two feats in Saturday’s game against the Washington Huskies.
First, obviously, they wanted to win and, in the process, solidify themselves as a program capable of meeting a team with a six-game winning streak head on, and ending said streak. Next, they wanted to make a certain statement with the win – one that would silence all of the college football pundits who have maintained that the Huskers haven’t been dominating their weaker opponents sufficiently in their last two outings.
Nebraska definitely accomplished the first goal, beating Washington 51-38 in a shootout. The second goal, though, is where things get a little murky.
For the third time in as many games, Martinez found just about every way imaginable other than through a “traditional” quarterbacking effort to get the offense rolling. Now, to be fair, Martinez did rack up two touchdowns through the air and only one on the ground this time around, and he did so on 10-of-21 passing for 151 yards and 83 yards rushing on 17 carries. However, there’s just something about Martinez’s style, from the way he surveys the opposing defense to the way he beautifully -- but sort of unorthodoxly -- throws the ball, to the way he flips it to running back Rex Burkhead that screams different.
Still, points are points regardless of how you get them, and the Huskers found a way to get them from just about everyone. Burkhead, finally, put together a very solid effort racking up 120 yards on 22 rushes, and two scores. His 5.5 yard average per run was his highest total of the young season, and seemed to signify that he found a way to make a dent through opposing defenses despite the Huskers’ offensive line woes – even if the Huskies’ defense does leave something to be desired.
Speaking of which, the much maligned offensive line -- particularly Mike Caputo, Spencer Long and Seung Hoon Choi -- put forth another adequate effort on Saturday, as the 51 points that Nebraska threw on the board clearly indicates. For all of the talk about how they’re not the marquee protection you need for this fast-paced Tim Beck offense, this line, with their third straight 40+ point outing, accomplished a feat that hadn’t been achieved by Nebraska since 1995’s championship run.
As the offense continued to do what they needed to do en route to this victory, the defense, once again, was not as consistent as Husker fans may have grown accustomed to them being. Washington quarterback, Keith Price, threw for 275 yards on 21-of-37 passing, racking up four touchdowns and two interceptions along the way. Then there was running back, Chris Polk, who rushed for 130 yards on 22 carries.
But the worst part of the defense’s performance, though, was the strange way that they just couldn’t take the life out Washington. For much of the first half, it was a tit-for-tat battle between these two teams with a Huskers score, Huskies score, and so on and so forth. Then, in the third quarter, Nebraska exploded to the tune of 17 points and seemingly had the victory completely in hand. Yet, somehow, in the fourth quarter, Washington continuously found a way to claw their way back.
And once again, it felt like it was the offense carrying the defense to the finish line, not vice versa, as most have gotten accustomed to seeing.
Nevertheless, a win is a win, and the Huskers won this one by a final 13-point margin. In three games, they have yet to win by anything less than 13 points, despite the topsy-turvy nature of the showings.
This game marked the third time that Nebraska played Washington in the last calendar year.