Published Tuesday, September 27, 2011 AT 9:36 AM / Updated at 12:01 PM
Nebraska-Wisconsin spotlight: Martinez vs. Wilson
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

Note: We’ll be breaking down smaller aspects of the Nebraska-Wisconsin game throughout the week. Here’s one.

Quarterbacks Taylor Martinez and Russell Wilson are both effective with their feet on passing downs. But they’re effective in different ways.

Martinez is a good third down runner. Defenses who haven’t previously faced him — that’s every team this year except for Washington — consistently misjudge his north/south acceleration. Martinez doesn’t always seem sure what he should do once he encounters a defender — although he’s getting better at sliding — but he’s very good at bolting when the pocket collapses behind him.

Because offensive coordinator Tim Beck favors a downfield passing game — and has junked some of those puny crossing routes Shawn Watson loved so much, the vertical running lanes open up for Martinez. It’s hard to stop if a defense is in man coverage. Wisconsin’s zone looks should make it harder for Martinez to get ten quick yards with his up-the-gut bolts — but only if the Badgers’ properly respect his speed.

Wilson is a good scrambler. Like Martinez, he can run. But he doesn’t have the same speed or even the same objective as Martinez. Wilson wants to buy time outside of the pocket for downfield throws, and he’s equally adept at scrambling left or right. Unlike Martinez, Wilson weaves through traffic when he runs downfield, slowing down to change direction, but becoming more elusive in the process.

How does each defense guard against the quarterback burning them on third downs?

With Martinez, it’s not misjudging his speed. Defenders must take good angles and take those angles quickly. Martinez has shown a habit this year of sliding or stopping suddenly when he meets a defender in the open field. Linebackers in coverage not only need to be mindful of defending the intermediate pass, but stopping Martinez’s scrambles.

With Wilson, disciplined rush lanes are crucial. And so is smart, reactive downfield coverage; Wisconsin’s receivers have been good at peeling back toward Wilson to get open. NU’s secondary — which has struggled so far — will be sorely tested in Madison.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.


  1. natty natty Boi says:

    wilson scrambling is dangerous and IMO scary than tmart. here me out first,with tmart YOU KNOW where he is going tmart is a north-south speedster he doesnt shake very often and now slides. wilson is buying time and keeping a eye down field n on the rush, he is also smart and will throw the ball away. you have to contain him and send one dude to sell out on him or he will buy time and find an open wr.

    wilson scrambles remind me tyrod taylor except hes 10x smarter then taylor.

  2. Huskerj says:

    My concern is with our d-line. The pressure from the front four is nothing like its been in the past couple years. The d-line is a part of the reason why our secondary looks poor right now. If they could get more pressure in passing situations then our d-backs do not have to cover for so long. That said our d-backs have a lot of maturing to do. We are young both offensively and defensively this year in crucial positions! I believe however that Nebraska football is very very close to the National prominence it once was; speaking to the years of consistant conference championships/national championships. The defense all together is giving up more yards than it should against offenses that do not match up with the big time schools that we are going face from now on. Our offense looks better and is going to improve as the year goes on. I do like tmart and think he is doing a good job so far in his career but I am excited to see the future recruits that we land to run this style of offense that have mobility like tmart but better in the passing game, we will get those QB’s soon and the college football world we be painted RED!!!!

    1. Nebraska D-Line says:

      We are the same unit as last year, minus Pierre Allen. We got a better push last year because our DB’s covered longer and tighter. It isn’t the other way around. The experience of Dennard should help tremendously, as well as moving Damion Stafford down to the Nickel position.