Huskers like Ducks? Maybe, says Pelini

The last time Nebraska had a quarterback making his first career start on the road, the Huskers scored zero touchdowns and lost the game by one point. It's easy to remember because it happened a year ago. That quarterback, Zac Lee, is now a senior and has a year's experience. But he's not the one starting Saturday, when No. 8 Nebraska hits the road for the first time this year against Washington.

Red-shirt freshman Taylor Martinez will lead the Huskers in the din of Husky Stadium, which can be loud and intimidating.

"Can you simulate that (crowd)? Well, we'll give him some crowd noise and that type of thing," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "He's a pretty calm, cool, collected guy. I don't anticipate it being an issue, but you have to prepare him for it the best you can. I think he understands what's in front of him. But until you're out there in that environment, I'm sure he'll need to settle down a little bit and be ready to go."

Martinez has been electric running Nebraska's zone read offense -- an offense that Washington coaches are comparing to that of rival Oregon.

"We want to be real multiple in what we do and create as many problems as we can for the defense," Pelini said. "It wasn't like we sat there and looked at Oregon and said we want to be Oregon. There are some aspects of it where it probably does look like Oregon, but I wouldn't say we're running Oregon's offense either. I think there are probably some things that are similar, but there are probably a lot of differences too."
NOTES, QUOTES:
--Starting WR Niles Paul will return kickoffs this week -- a role he assumed last year, when he returned 16 kickoffs for 446 yards for an average of 27.9 yards. Tim Marlowe and Brandon Kinnie have shared kickoff-return duties so far this season. Marlowe has averaged 32.0 yards on three returns, with a long of 42, and Kinnie has one return for 14 yards.

--Nebraska is 34-20-3 all-time against Pac-10 teams, and this is Nebraska's 36th game against a Pac-10 team since 1970. Since 1990, Nebraska has faced every Pac-10 team except Stanford and Oregon.

--Nebraska's defense has gone 19 straight games without allowing an individual 300 yards of total offense. The last player was Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing (339 total) in 2008.

SERIES HISTORY: Series tied 3-3-1 (last meeting, 1998, 55-7 Nebraska).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Nebraska enters Saturday's game averaging 8.8 yards per carry, a statistic that leads the nation. The Huskers have 11 runs of 20 yards or longer. Quarterback Taylor Martinez is averaging 13.5 yards per rush. So what's the problem? Nebraska hasn't exactly established itself between the tackles, as evidenced by its failure to convert on fourth-and-1 against Idaho, and again failing to score from inside the Idaho 1-yard line. Also, Martinez hasn't yet shown whether he can stretch the field vertically, although coach Bo Pelini says Martinez can but hasn't been given the opportunity in games because of the game plan.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Nebraska dominated in pass defense against Idaho, collecting seven sacks while returning two of five interceptions for touchdowns. The safeties and corners have been solid in coverage, giving the defensive line more time to apply pressure, and the secondary is also adept at reading and jumping routes. The challenge will be greater against Washington quarterback Jake Locker, projected as the No. 1 quarterback pick in next spring's NFL Draft. Washington also boasts two of the Pac-10s top wide receivers in Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar. "These guys, they're really well-schooled at understanding coverages, it seems like," Nebraska secondary coach Marvin Sanders said. "They find spots in zones, and they can have good runs after their catches."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It creates some challenges for you defensively, but I think you just play your system and do your things and are disciplined in how you attack him. You got to give him the necessary respect." -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini on Washington quarterback Jake Locker.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Nebraska at Washington, Sept. 18 -- Nebraska's first serious challenge of the season comes at Seattle, where the improved Huskies have won six of their last eight home games. Nebraska has fared well in true road games of late, going 6-3 under Bo Pelini, but hasn't emerged from the non-conference season undefeated since 2005, when the Huskers played only three non-conference foes.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Contain Jake Locker. The veteran quarterback has a big arm, but he's equally as dangerous with his feet. But first, Nebraska must shut down Washington's running game. Husky running backs are averaging 6.4 yards per carry through two games, and Nebraska's first two opponents have had moderate success running up the middle.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Taylor Martinez -- Martinez says he's ready for the hostile confines of Husky Stadium, but how will the red-shirt freshman respond in his first career road game? It's especially worth watching considering that Martinez fumbled four times in his last game, and threw an interception.

LB Eric Martin -- Nebraska's quarterback on defense is also making his first career road start. A sophomore, Martin made his first career start at linebacker against Idaho and is responsible for making calls and signals. "We've got to be able to adjust, we've got to be able to understand what's coming by a formation and sets and just play sound," linebackers coach Mike Ekeler said.

DT Baker Steinkuhler -- The success of Nebraska's pass rush last year was dependent upon pressure up the middle. Ndamukong Suh is gone, but Steinkuhler has done an admirable job in his place. The sophomore will be key this week as Nebraska aims to collapse the pocket on Jake Locker.

ROSTER REPORT:
--Starting LT Marcel Jones has missed Nebraska's first two games because of a sore back but is expected to play Saturday.

--Starting S Rickey Thenarse left Saturday's game with severe leg cramps and needed IVs on the sideline but returned to practice Monday.

--Staring DE Cameron Meredith is showing no ill effects of a shoulder separation that sidelined him after the second quarter of the Western Kentucky game. He started and played throughout the game against Idaho.


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