World-Herald staff writer Rick Kaipust breaks down Nebraska’s performance on both sides of the ball.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
NU STAR: Junior quarterback Taylor Martinez was in top form, completing 26 of 34 passes for a career-high 354 yards and five touchdowns. He was particularly sharp in the first half, hitting 18 of 23 throws and finding Jake Long, Kenny Bell and Steven Osborne for TDs.
HIGHLIGHT: Who needs a two-minute drill when it takes only 34 seconds to score? After taking over with 1:37 left before halftime, Martinez led NU on a five-play, 77-yard scoring drive — finishing it with a 36-yard pass to Jamal Turner and his 29-yard TD strike to Osborne.
BUSTED PLAY: Martinez almost handed Southern Miss seven points when Golden Eagles cornerback Deron Wilson jumped a throw to Bell inside his own 20. Wilson dropped it. On a sparkling day for Martinez, that throw was a rare dud.
OUR TAKE: What better day for Martinez to shine than when the Huskers lost All-Big Ten I-back Rex Burkhead in the first quarter to a knee injury. And Martinez wasn’t afraid to dial up some lesser-known targets (Osborne, Tyler Evans, Tyler Wullenwaber, Jake Long). Also interesting to see was Nebraska giving fullback Mike Marrow four carries, and Marrow was efficient by picking up first downs on three of those. Oh, and no turnovers and just one penalty.
TRACKING THE DEFENSE
NU STAR: Senior middle linebacker Will Compton made 12 tackles as the Huskers started the post-Lavonte David era. David, remember, accounted for a stunning 285 tackles over the past two seasons. Compton is an undisputed leader on the Blackshirts, so stepping up right away was big.
HIGHLIGHT: After Nebraska took its 21-14 lead in the second quarter, the Huskers sent Compton on a blitz and he corralled Chris Campbell for a 12-yard sack. The Golden Eagles punted on their next snap.
BUSTED PLAY: Nebraska had a chance to keep Southern Miss out of the end zone on the 24-yard touchdown pass from Chris Campbell to Dominique Sullivan in the second quarter, but Sullivan shook cornerback Andrew Green immediately after the catch and turned it into a score. That also was the third third-down conversion on the drive, which pulled the Golden Eagles into a 14-14 tie.
OUR TAKE: Southern Miss had some luck with the bubble screen and quarterback run game, but the Huskers couldn’t have been too disappointed with giving up just 260 total yards. Two things that could use improving: allowing the Golden Eagles to convert 50 percent of their third downs (7 of 14) and forcing just one turnover (a third-quarter fumble recovered by Alonzo Whaley). NU did sack Southern Miss quarterbacks three times and dialed up some different pressure schemes in John Papuchis’ first regular-season game as defensive coordinator.