2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - Chattanooga at Nebraska
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Sept. 3 at Nebraska 40 … UT Chattanooga 7
CFN Analysis: So that's how the Nebraska offense is supposed to look. It might not have rolled up a bazillion yards against an overmatched team, but it was efficient and effective on the ground with Taylor Martinez looking as quick and decisive as he was over the first half of last year. He only completed half his passes for 116 yards, but he ran for 135 yards and three scores averaging 7.1 yards per carry, while the team finished with 229 rushing yards. The run defense wasn't the brick wall it should've been, and UTC was able to move the ball relatively well, but this was a nice first game to get the season rolling. Next week against Fresno State, the goal has to be more effective through the air to take some of the pressure off Martinez.
(AP) LINCOLN, Neb. -- The offense is new, but there's no doubt Nebraska relies on the same guy to make it go.
Taylor Martinez ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns out of the no-huddle system and the No. 10 Cornhuskers beat Chattanooga 40-7 Saturday in their first game as Big Ten members.
Martinez showed no signs of the toe and ankle injuries that limited him the second half of last season. He scored on runs of 7, 43 and 47 yards and completed 11 of 22 passes for 116 yards before giving way to Brion Carnes in the fourth quarter.
"I thought early in the game Taylor was very anxious. He was putting a lot of pressure on himself," coach Bo Pelini said. "He didn't get a lot of help around him at times. We had some busts around him, but overall, not a bad day."
The Huskers' new system under first-year offensive coordinator Tim Beck revealed lots of triple-option plays and quick short passes.
Old-school Nebraska fans surely loved Beck's first call of the game. Tyler Legate's 1-yard run marked the first time a fullback had carried the ball for Nebraska since 2004.
But make no mistake, this offense is built around Martinez's strengths as a runner. He carried 19 times, which might be a bit more than ideal for a quarterback the Huskers desperately need to keep healthy.
"I didn't know how many times I ran," Martinez said. "It's pretty much based on what the defense is running and giving us."
Rex Burkhead added 75 yards and a touchdown and the Cornhuskers had 364 total yards as they won their 26th consecutive opener, the longest streak in the nation.
The Huskers lost yards on seven plays in the first half and on five more in the second. Martinez dropped a snap, made a bad pitch under pressure and had Burkhead bump into him from behind as he set up to pass.
"We came out a little slow and weren't clicking," Burkhead said. "We have a lot of things to improve upon as a team to be where we want to be. If we want to be good in the Big Ten, we have to improve on them every day."
The Huskers started three underclassmen on the offensive line for the first time in three years.
Martinez ran for three or more touchdowns for the fourth time in his 14 career games, but Saturday's were his first since in nine games.
"Martinez, how many third downs did we have? He scrambles up the middle and gets a first down," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "He needs 10 yards, he gets 12. That is what good players do."
Burkhead set up Martinez's first TD by turning a pitch into a career-long 52-yard run to the Chattanooga 7.
Martinez's next touchdown looked a lot like others scored by Nebraska's option quarterbacks of yesteryear. With Legate trailing to his left, Martinez cut around the left corner and turned around Chattanooga's Kadeem Wise on his way to a 43-yard run that put Nebraska up 20-0.
Martinez extended the lead to 40-7 in the third quarter when he faked a handoff and ran 47 yards untouched.
The Huskers showed they have a capable replacement for Alex Henery, the most accurate kicker in NCAA history.
Brett Maher, who passed on scholarship offers from Colorado State and Ohio to walk on at Nebraska, kicked a 50-yard field goal into a gusty north wind and added 48-, 34- and 21-yarders.
The Mocs scored their only points on the first series of the second half, with Marlon Anthony catching a 13-yard TD pass from B.J. Coleman after cornerback Andrew Green fell.
Chattanooga picked up some decent gains at times but couldn't get consistently move against a defense that has allowed under 11 points a game at home since 2009.
"I thought our guys played extremely hard and they didn't back down the whole game," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "The best part of it was for 60 minutes we went toe-to-toe. Man, our guys fought."
Coleman was 19 of 33 for 174 yards, with one interception.
The Huskers sacked Coleman three times. Their biggest defensive play came when the Mocs were backed up against their goal line and Cameron Meredith intercepted a pass that Jared Crick tipped at the line. The play set up Burkhead's touchdown.
Nebraska was the next in a line of major powers to play Chattanooga. The Mocs lost to the last two national champions, 62-24 at Auburn last year and 45-0 at Alabama in 2009, and 57-2 in 2008 against BCS runner-up Oklahoma.
The Mocs can look forward to playing South Florida, Alabama and Tennessee the next three years.
Chattanooga (0-0) at Nebraska (0-0)
Sept. 3, 3:30
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Here's The Deal …
Sit down … we'll break this to you gently … but in case you haven't heard, Nebraska has joined the Big Ten.
It would've been nice if there was a little bit of media coverage about this and you'd think the Big Red Nation would've been just a wee bit excited.
Of course, outside of all the scandals and all the controversies, Nebraska going to the bigger, better league has been college football's biggest storylines and – no offense, Big 12 – it's a major positive. The Huskers getting to play Ohio State, and Michigan, and Wisconsin, and Iowa, just makes college football that much bigger and that much better. But first, before all the fun can begin, and before Nebraska fans blow their life savings to pony up for the tickets for the conference opener at Wisconsin on October 1st, there's a non-conference schedule to get through.
Playing Fresno State and Washington at home over the next few weeks are mere opening acts for the main event – no, not the road trip to Wyoming – and this game against Chattanooga is nothing more than a light scrimmage just to get everyone frothing at the mouth for what's to come next month. After losing the Big 12 title game and after a donkey of a performance in the Holiday Bowl loss to Washington, and after closing out the year losing three of the final four games, Nebraska needs to flex a little muscle. That's what it's paying the Mocs for.
Why Chattanooga Might Win: The Mocs are going to get down and they're going to need to bomb away to make this even the slightest bit interesting, and they should be able to do it. The passing game finished eighth among FCS teams last year and the offense finished 11th, and the two key parts are back in quarterback B.J. Coleman, who finished 13th in the nation in total offense, and Joel Bradford, an explosive target who finished third in receiving yards catching 81 passes for 1,284 yards and eight scores including an 11-catch, 254-yard effort against Eastern Kentucky and a two-game stretch against Furman and Elon catching 26 balls for 426 yards and three scores. The Husker secondary already lost Prince Amukamara to the NFL, and now it might be without Alfonzo Dennard, the All-America-caliber corner who has a leg problem.
Why Nebraska Might Win: The Moc defense has some good playmakers to work around, and it should be far better this year in SoCon play, but the defensive front is about to get blown up. Run defense wasn't always a positive last year, and this season it should have a rough time early on with a Husker offensive line that should grow into a strength and should have few problems paving the way for the electric backfield. Yes, the Nebraska secondary might be reeling a bit, but the front seven should be as good as any in the Big Ten and should be able to shut down any semblance of a Chattanooga running game cold. Auburn was able to hang 62 points on the Mocs last year as Cam Newton and company went through the motions, taking a 34-0 lead less than 17 minutes into the game. Nebraska should be able to do the same thing.
What To Watch Out For: Here's the problem. Nebraska needs Taylor Martinez to play and to get back to form after having so many injury and consistency problems over the second half of last year, but it also needs to get him on the sidelines as soon as humanly possible. The quarterback situation was deep and talented going into the summer, and then Cody Green took off for Tulsa and Bubba Starling decided he'd rather be a Kansas City Royal. That means the depth is very, very thin, and that means that the season not only depends on Martinez staying healthy, but also being great again. He should show off a little of the T-Magic side that made him such a sensation over the first half of last year, but the goal will be to get him out of the game as soon as he gets his reps in.
What Will Happen: Nebraska will be able to call its shot, but
Chattanooga will annoy the home faithful with plenty
of second half passing yards. It'll be the type of
game that's never in doubt and is a blowout from the
start, but will be just ragged enough to make the
CFN Prediction: Nebraska 58 ... Chattanooga 17
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