Freshman QB Martinez finally shows flaws as No. 6 Nebraska beats South Dakota St. 17-3

By Eric Olson, AP
Sunday, September 26, 2010

Martinez struggles in Neb’s 17-3 win over Jacks

LINCOLN, Neb. — Rex Burkhead and Kyler Reed scored on consecutive series in the first half, but sixth-ranked Nebraska turned in an uninspired performance in a 17-3 win over South Dakota State on Saturday night.

The Cornhuskers (4-0) are off to their best start since 2005, but backups who figured to get lots of playing time against the Jackrabbits of the FCS watched while most of Nebraska’s starters went the distance.

Redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez, coming off three straight 100-yard rushing games, fumbled his first snap, threw two interceptions, was wildly off the mark with other passes and was flagged for taunting. He finished with 75 yards on 13 carries but was just 6-of-14 passing for 140 yards.

Kyle Minett gashed the Huskers for 113 yards on 28 carries for the Jackrabbits (0-3).

Nebraska got a huge performance from linebacker Lavonte David, who was credited with 19 tackles and two pass breakups.

Nebraska stamped itself as a national championship contender in last week’s 56-21 win at Washington but didn’t look the part this night.

Martinez finally played like the first-year starter he is. He was replaced by Cody Green after a fourth- quarter interception.

Derek Domino ran back the pick 66 yards to the end zone, but Andy Mink was called for an illegal block and the return that could have pulled the Jackrabbits within a touchdown was nullified.

Martinez wasn’t the only one who struggled. Punt returner Niles Paul fumbled for the fourth time in four games, lucking out when teammate Austin Cassidy recovered. And the Huskers drew flags for an illegal shift and a hold on Jeremiah Sirles on consecutive plays during their last possession of the first half, killing any chance of scoring.

Nebraska broke a scoreless tie early in the second quarter with Burkhead running in from 3 yards after Mike McNeill turned a short pass from Martinez into a 64-yard gain. McNeill injured his lower left leg later in the half and was on the sideline in street clothes after halftime.

Martinez put the Huskers up 14-0 when the Jackrabbits’ secondary lost track of Reed, who was standing alone at the 5-yard line when his pass arrived.

South Dakota State came out with a sound offensive plan, running Minett right at the Huskers for 3 or 4 yards at a time out of the I or one-back set and sometimes having him take direct snaps in the wildcat formation.

But the Jacks might have outsmarted themselves after making it to the Nebraska 1 after Martinez’s fumble. Minett was held to no gain on third down, and on fourth he took the direct snap after quarterback Thomas O’Brien split out as a receiver. Minett faked a handoff to his fullback, then was smothered behind the line by Alonzo Whaley and Rickey Thenarse.

SDSU’s only points came on Kyle Harris’ 35-yard field goal in the third quarter.

O’Brien was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter and finished 12 of 28 for 95 yards.

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