Nebraska better now than in September

The birds were out, the weather was good and a field which was horrendous yesterday was not quite horrendous today. It made for a good day of practice, which was good for Niles Paul, who finally returned to full practice with the team.

Heading out to the field this morning, there was a generous amount of dew on the ground, but as I walked across the field, I couldn't detect the "squish" which was noticeable yesterday, almost like walking on a sponge.

The field was in much better shape today.

It wasn't great, but it was much better than just a day ago. Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson said that it's been a bit of a challenge dealing with it, but it could end up being good for the team come game day. " It's been challenging. It's been soggy. Yesterday it was hard to stand up. It was really slippery. Today it was a lot better," he said, and added that the conditions have made them really zero in on the positions which have to make sharp moves on the field, because this might be what they get come the bowl game on Thursday.

"We have emphasized it all week - those positions that have to make those cuts. This could be what we'll get," Watson said. "If I remember right, someone was telling us from the Holiday Bowl committee that by the time the second game was played on it, a number of years ago, it got pretty chewed up by halftime."

Another thing that has been emphasized has been Taylor Martinez, of course. The last half of the season has been forgettable for the freshman quarterback. Since the injury against Missouri, he's watched his status as a dark horse Heisman candidate slip away, replaced with the status of just "frustrated."

Martinez has apparently been in much better spirits, because he's
now able to physically do what he was able to do when he faced
Washington last time.

That was only compounded in the Big 12 title game, where Martinez' time was marked by turnovers and an ability to explode, make cuts and do the kinds of things he had become used to doing early in the season.

Watson said that since the championship game, it's been kind of theme for Martinez to get back to where he was mentally, which meant he had to get back to where he was physically. He said he believes Martinez is there now.

"He's stung and he wants to prove himself. The big thing for Taylor is getting back and getting in a healthy spot," he said. "He's a lot better health wise than what he was. You could tell in that game he was a little beat up still. He has had a lot of purpose in his work, especially this week.

" That week off was really big for him. He's running, making the same cuts and being explosive like he was in preseason."

That bodes well for him and obviously Nebraska. But not so well for Washington, which saw Martinez along with sophomore running back Rex Burkhead and senior running back Roy Helu Jr. each go off for over a hundred yards on the ground.

But that was then, and Martinez was healthy. Since then the Huskers have added some wrinkles to the offense out of necessity, the big addition being the "Wildcat" featuring Rex Burkhead. It's become almost a staple of the offense since Martinez became very limited and also when sophomore quarterback Cody Green came in to spell Martinez when he wasn't ready to play.

Watson said that it has made this offense a bit more versatile than it was when Washington faced Nebraska in September, because the coaches know more about themselves than they did at that point of the year. "We're probably schematically, put together a little bit better than we were then, honestly. We didn't know quite what to expect. We had an idea," he said. "e were still finding out way through some things. We're put together a little bit better in how we are going about our business in this one."

Having senior wide receiver Niles Paul back will be good, and Watson didn't hesitate to talk about how he'll be used in the game this week, despite the fact that this was Paul's first full practice back since the foot injury almost two months ago. " He practiced all day today, so I mean he's full go, let's go. He did everything today," he said.

Niles Paul was "full go" today, according to Watson, which gives
Nebraska back one of its biggest weapons on both offense and
special teams.

You couldn't help but ask, or at least hope someone would. But it had to come up the status of Watson as a candidate for a coaching position at another school. The first association with Watson came when the Vanderbilt head coaching position opened up. But that closed, but was quickly replaced in the conversation with Miami of Ohio. Watson was actually an assistant there for some time, and his name seems to be at the top of the list when it comes to the candidates for the head position there. But when asked about it today, Watson said that now was not the time nor the place. "I don't want to do that. That's not what is important this week," Watson said.

The Huskers have one more day of full practice tomorrow. That will be followed up by the Holiday Bowl press conference on Wednesday which will feature Bo Pelini as well as Washington Head Coach, Steve Sarkisian.

The Huskers went to Sea World today, and will visit an Aircraft Carrier tomorrow.

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