Murtha hoping to finish by starting

As a freshman, who's spent most of the time looking at others play, the chance to play significant time is a joy. It's what you are there for, what you worked so hard to attain. So, to achieve it is basically fulfilling a dream. It's hard to say if offensive tackle Lydon Murtha has done all that quite yet, but he's certainly enjoyed his recent status as starter. Now, he's just hoping he can finish off the year with a firm grip on the spot.

As a freshman, who's spent most of the time looking at others play, the chance to play significant time is a joy. It's what you are there for, what you worked so hard to attain. So, to achieve it is basically fulfilling a dream. It's hard to say if offensive tackle Lydon Murtha has done all that quite yet, but he's certainly enjoyed his recent status as starter. Now, he's just hoping he can finish off the year with a firm grip on the spot.

 

Everyone wants to start. That's a given. If you are a freshman or a senior, you want to be on the field when the game kicks off and when the game ends. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Lydon Murtha has had to wait for that to happen, but he'd tell you that when it finally did, the feeling was everything he thought it might be. "It's what you work for and what you want," Murtha said of starting. "You work your butt off, do what you can and you just hope you can get your shot on the field."

 

"But it's great to start. I mean, who wouldn't want to start?"

 

Murtha got his shot after senior tackle Cornealius Fuamatu-Thomas went down with a season-ending injury. From the Oklahoma game to this point Murtha has started every game but one. It's nice to get that top spot, but going into the bowl game Murtha just wants to keep it one last time this year. "You think about it a lot," Lydon said of wondering where his place is on the depth chart. "Of course, that's every players' wishes, but they (the coaches) really haven't said anything yet."

 

You wouldn't think there would be much to worry about, but Murtha pointed out that from Oklahoma to Kansas State he was on the first team. Then, as suddenly as he was at the top spot, fellow tackle, sophomore Chris Patrick moved in front of him, starting the last game of the season against the ‘Buffs.

 

The left tackle position has gotten a lot of focus throughout the year and not a lot of it good. Right handed starting quarterback Zac Taylor has found himself eating the surfaces of the respective fields he's played upon far more than any one on the staff or team would like. On the year Taylor has gone down 33 times, the most since 1999. He's also getting sacked once every 12 times he drops back to pass.

 

Lydon would be the first one to tell you that it hasn't been exactly perfect when he's been in there, but he knew it was going to be a chore going in. "I knew it would be a challenge, especially when I went out there my first time as a starter," he said. "But that just goes with anything. You have to do it once to get a feel for it and keep doing it to get better."

 

"So, that's what I have been trying to do and I think I've gotten better with each game."

 

Just because you are better, though, doesn't mean you are the starter the next time around. That goes with any position, but especially on the offensive line. Offensive line coach Dennis Wagner has said numerous times that he didn't look at his linemen as left tackle, left guard, center, etc. He looked at them as one thru whatever number of linemen he had at the time.

 

If you are a defensive tackle, you have one or possibly two guys you have to beat to get that top spot. If you are at cornerback, you can count the guys you need to beat or keep at bay, on one hand.

 

On the line, though, Murtha said that you really don't know where you are at, but in a way, that's part of the reason he's as focused as he is. "You work your butt off, because one second you are starting the next you aren't," he said. "It makes you enjoy starting that much more, but you know when the game is over, you have to earn that spot back."

 

From day one that's been his goal, but going in to the final days of the season, that push to stay on top might be as strong as it's ever been.  Murtha has tasted what it's like going against a team like Oklahoma, but the team Nebraska will be facing this next weekend is even more familiar to the Minnesota native. It's a team that he grew up respecting, even admiring for everything they accomplished. "They were always the team to beat in the Big Ten," Lydon said. "They win a lot every year, they have always got a lot of big name players and they're just a good program."

 

"It won't be any problem getting up for them."

 

From a 5-6 year to this year's 7-4 record, the Huskers have in many ways gotten better. They throw the ball more effectively, they are definitely better on defense and their special teams are amongst the nation's best.

 

It's been a year of building momentum and Murtha can see no bigger momentum for the off-season than a win over the Wolverines. "It would cap off this season the way we want," he said. "We started this motto "Restore the Order" before we played Colorado, and that game was a small step back to doing just that."

 

"If you want to be the Nebraska everyone around Nebraska remembers, though, you have to beat teams like Michigan. That's when you will know you are back."

 

As for Murtha, he wants back as well, that top spot at his position. It's not greed either that motivates him, wanting to be the starter, just so he can say that's what he is. It's about the fact that even before he had it, that's all he thought about doing.

 

It's the reason why he plays the game and being out there first is just another way that he can show himself that he's doing it the right way. "Just going in there to fill in is different mentally, I think," Lydon said. "When you know you are going out there at the starter, there's just something that gets into you."

 

"I don't know what it is, but you get confidence from that, (and) you really get into the game from that and it lets you know that the coaches think you are getting better."

 

"If you are the starter, I guess that just lets you know that you are and that you are getting closer to where you want to be."


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