Nebraska did on Saturday what everyone expected them to do...won and won big. The final score (49-10) was right around what I and most others expected but despite the easy victory there are still plenty of things Huskers need to work on. Here are a few observations from Nebraska's victory week one over Western Kentucky.
Judging from what the Huskers did on Saturday, I think Pelini and Watson are fully set on having Taylor Martinez as their primary signal caller. Martinez was sensational and gave fans flashbacks of Eric Crouch with his speed, agility and incredible vision when running the ball. The redshirt freshman finished with a stellar 127 yards rushing with three scores and another 136 yards through the air. However let's remember Nebraska was probably playing against one of the worst defenses in the country. Fans also clamored last season after Zach Lee also tore apart weak opponents the first couple games of the season, and we all know what happened against good defenses. Martinez's play gives me hope and optimism for the offense, but I'm not ready to crown him as Nebraska's savior just yet.
What also surprised me was how little Zac Lee played. Not only did Lee get the least amount of snaps of the quarterbacks, I thought he looked the least comfortable. The senior didn't do a bad job, even had a nice drive late in the game. However the Huskers clearly want to have the quarterback to carry the ball frequently, and Lee just isn't that style of player.
The play of Cody Green stood out as well. I thought the sophomore looked much more relaxed and in control compared to last season. Even though the offense seems to revolve mainly around Taylor Martinez, I wouldn't be surprised if the Huskers went with a two quarterback system with Green getting a few series each game.
As for the rest of the offense, the running backs split the carries as expected and that should continue throughout the rest of the season. Roy Helu didn't see a ton of playing time but I think that was more because Pelini didn't want to risk injury during a game Nebraska was going to win anyway. Rex Burkhead also looks poised for a huge season. The sophomore looked great running the ball as well as racking up some yards after receptions. Austin Jones did a great job as well but I wouldn't expect him to see many carries throughout the season unless the Huskers have the game well in hand.
As for the wide receivers Brandon Kinnie looks like he could play an important role in the Husker passing game. The Fort Scott C.C. transfer is a huge target and has very trustworthy hands. Niles Paul looked explosive both at receiver and on special teams, but he clearly still has issues with looking up field before having a firm grip on the ball. The senior is going to have to improve on the simple plays if he want's to live up to his potential in his final year.
The Blackshirts may have only given up 10 points but Pelini seemed to be rather disgusted with their effort. The position most in question has got to be at linebacker. Devastating injuries to Sean Fisher and Will Compton forced Pelini to enter Alonzo Whaley into the starting lineup and his inexperience showed while in the game. Whaley struggled getting his assignments right and driving through tackles, which clearly frustrated Pelini. Lavonte David played well in his first ever start as a Husker, but it's clear the linebackers have a long ways to go before becoming a dominant unit.
It was alarming seeing the WKU offensive live drive the Nebraska defensive line off the ball during parts of the game, but I have a feeling that's going to be a quick fix for the Big Red. Overall the defense looked good, but not great. Nebraska will go back, look at film, make adjustments and come out looking much better against Idaho this Saturday.
Did the Huskers look like national title contenders? No, probably not. But not too many powerhouses did. The first game is all about putting a product on the field, seeing what everyone can do and then making adjustments from there. The Huskers look good but my advice for Husker Nation would be don't get too high, don't get too low. The Huskers did some good things and some not so good things. I think we'll have to wait until Nebraska's match up in Seattle against Washington on September 18 to get a true feel of how strong this team really is.