Game Ticker | Box Score
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Nebraska kicked off its final run through the Big 12 Conference in a game that was supposed to be a tough test against undefeated Kansas State team on Thursday.
All it ended up being was one last Wildcat beat down at the hands of the Huskers, 48-13.
Led by a Heisman Trophy worthy performance by redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (5-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12) jumped all over Kansas State (4-1, 1-1) from the beginning of the game and didn't let up until the final minutes.
By the end of the night, Martinez had racked up 369 yards of total offense and five total touchdowns, and set a school single-game record for a quarterback with 241 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 15 attempts.
Altogether, the Huskers racked up 451 rushing yards against a KSU defense that had given up an average of less than 200 yards per game.
"I thought we played pretty well," head coach Bo Pelini said. "There were a lot of good things on offense and defense Overall, a pretty good effort against a pretty good football team, bit it's still a work in progress. We've still got a lot of things we can improve on."
Kansas State's plan to open the game was drawn up to near perfection, as even though the Wildcats weren't scoring many points they were able to grind the ball on offense and run off big chunks of clock to shorten the game.
The only problem was Martinez pretty much threw that scheme out the window in a hurry. With a number of electrifying runs, including a pair of touchdown scampers, Martinez was able to once again get the Huskers on the scoreboard in a hurry and allow the Blackshirts to dial it up.
After stuffing quarterback Carson Coffman short on fourth-and-2 to force a turnover on KSU's opening possession, Martinez led the offense on an 8-play, 76-yard drive that saw four first downs and was capped off by a 14-yard scoring run by the Corona, Calif., native.
The Wildcats put together two more long and time-consuming drives, but were only able to manage one field goal to show for it. After KSU kicker Josh Cherry hit a 46-yarder to make it 7-3, Martinez quickly made sure the momentum stayed on Nebraska's sideline.
Putting together a clock-chewing drive of their own, the Huskers marched 87 yards on eight plays and punched their second touchdown, this time on yet another electrifying 35-yard run down the right side by Martinez.
Kansas State's offense stalled on its ensuing possession and left enough time on the clock for Nebraska to add a 39-yard field goal by senior Alex Henery with 26 seconds left in the half, sending the Huskers into the locker room with a 17-3 halftime lead.
Martinez had 11 carries for 129 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first half alone, along with completing all four of his pass attempts. Kansas State had just 114 yards of total offense as a team.
"I'm glad that this was my first Big 12 game and we came out on top and played very well," Martinez said.
Nebraska carried over pretty much all of that momentum into the second half, as Martinez wasted no time adding to his highlight reel on the night with an 80-yard touchdown run on a third-and-10 to put NU up 24-3 right off the bat.
Following another stalled Wildcat drive, senior running back Roy Helu added to the party with a 68-yard touchdown run of his own on the first play of the ensuing Husker drive to make it 31-3. Helu had an impressive night in his own right, rushing for 110 yards on eight carries with a score.
Kansas State eventually hit another field goal, but Martinez added to his magical night with a 79-yard touchdown bomb to sophomore tight end Kyler Reed that cleared out the KSU student section and all but closed the book on the game.
Though the game seemed out of reach, Nebraska didn't exactly let up on the gas pedal offensively. The Huskers came out later in the fourth quarter and ran a hurry-up no-huddle offense, and eventually Martinez broke yet another long touchdown run, this time from 41 yards to make it 45-6.
"Like I always say, it's always a good night when you have 400 yards rushing," senior guard Keith Williams said. "I mean, I'm not even counting the passing yards, so it was like a total of 600 yards. We had a great night. We ran right at them, just like we always do."
Kansas State finally had a shot to put the ball in the end zone when Coffman ran it 36 yards to the 1-yard line to set up first and goal. The Wildcats put the ball in the end zone after three straight failed run attempts on a pass from Coffman to Chris Harper with just under 10 minutes remaining.
Finally, Pelini called off the dogs and pulled Martinez for sophomore Cody Green on Nebraska's following drive, and the Huskers were able to run down the clock and walk away with their sixth straight road victory.
"We were really upset with the way we played against South Dakota State," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "We stunk it up, bottom line, and we knew it. The standard of our play is much high than that performance, and every man took it really personally. So the nice thing about it, they practiced, and they practiced their purpose. I knew we were going to play good. I didn't know it was going to be like this, but I knew they were going to play good because they had purpose in their practice.
"I just knew that the competitiveness - they were mad. They wanted to get that taste out of their mouth, and they did a good job tonight."
- Robin Washut
Martinez puts on a show
Just 11 days after quarterbacking one of the more forgettable offensive performances for Nebraska in recent memory against South Dakota State, Martinez responded to his critics with one of the best individual performances in college football this season.
Though he wasn't one to go into much detail about his play on Thursday night, Martinez's coaches couldn't say enough about their emerging star.
"He told me he was going to fix it, and he fixed it," Watson said. "I knew he was going to, though. I knew on Sunday after the South Dakota State game. I knew he was going to fix it. He told me, 'Coach, I'll fix it.' And there was purpose in him and purpose in all of his work this week in practice, and there was no doubt he was going to get it done."
Not only did Martinez's playmaking ability make Nebraska's entire offense a threat to score on every snap, it also quickly forced Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder away from his ball control style of offense and made running back Daniel Thomas (22 carries for 63 yards) almost a non-factor.
With the extra time to both correct the mistakes against South Dakota State and prepare for the Wildcats' defense, Watson said Martinez was destined to bounce back this week. However, he didn't know Martinez would bounce back quite like that.
"That's the kind of kid he is," Watson said. "I don't care if it's a short week or a bye week, he was going to fix his issues."
- Robin Washut
Huskers make first statement in Big 12 farewell tour
With the rest of the league putting giant target on Nebraska's back this season, Kansas State came into Thursday night's game with the first chance to give the Huskers one last kick out the door.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Huskers had plans on doing the same thing to the Big 12.
"I know we're going out of the Big 12 next year, and I'm a senior and I'm going to be gone, but that's one hell of a way to go out of the Big 12, I'll tell you what," Williams said. "We want to go out of the Big 12 on top."
The Kansas State crowd was definitely as hostile as ever before the game and through the first few minutes, but it quickly dissolved in groans and sighs mixed with the cheers from the scattered NU fans that made the trip to Manhattan one final time.
"Obviously we want to go out of the Big 12 with a bang, and tonight was just the first night of our Big 12 goals - win the Big 12 North and win the Big 12," sophomore defensive end Cameron Meredith said. "So tonight was just the beginning."
- Robin Washut
***After the game, some of the players talked about a short video Pelini showed the team before kickoff to send a message about not letting their guard down against a hungry opponent.
"It was actually pretty cool," sophomore running back Rex Burkhead said. "People were hunting this lion and then all of a sudden this lion was hunting the people because they lost it. The lion ended up attacking the dude and it ran right at him. The guy killed the lion right before it was an inch away from him. It was pretty intense. It got us ready to go."
***Watson said Helu has been so explosive this season because he's finally been able to stay healthy.
"He's healthy," Watson said. "He was so beat up last year, you didn't get to see the real Roy. You're seeing him now. That's what he's capable of. That's what we saw in spring ball, that's what we saw in training camp. Last year, he was a trooper. He played hurt for most of the year."
***Junior linebacker Lavonte David was once again around the football after nearly every play, as he finished with a game-high 16 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.
"Lavonte David is a stud," linebackers coach Mike Ekeler said. "He's a better person than he is a football player. The guy plays his heart out, and he's so conscientious in the way he prepares. I couldn't be more proud and couldn't be more honored to coach a kid like that. He's a great kid."
***Ekeler coached from the coaches' box for the first time this season. He said the staff wanted him to be up there so he could get a better feel for how Kansas State was attacking the linebackers in order to make better in-game adjustments.
"It just helps us get another set of eyes, because again, it was a total game," Ekeler said. "They gave us so much stuff we had never seen, we had to make adjustments all night. So just having another set of eyes and making sure our fits were good, I think it worked out well."
***With the Huskers using their defensive backs more as linebackers than ever before, safety DeJon Gomes found himself right in the middle of the action on nearly every running play. He finished the night with a season-high 10 tackles and a forced fumble, but admitted he was a little more sore than usual.
"I'm a little banged up, but that's with everybody," Gomes said. "Practices, games - it's a long season. We're going to get back to Lincoln and I'm going to get it taken care of."
***Junior defensive tackle Jared Crick said the Blackshirts definitely came out wanting to make a statement against the Wildcats, but it wasn't necessarily intended for the many critics they had following the South Dakota State win.
"No matter what people say about us, we're more critical of ourselves than anybody," Crick said. "We didn't want to come out and make a statement for other people, we wanted to come out and make a statement for ourselves and show ourselves how good we can be when we're all working on the same cylinder, and I think we did that."