Published Monday, November 12, 2012 AT 8:18 AM / Updated at 9:26 AM
Mad Chatter, Nov. 12
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

There’s so much to hit this morning, where do we start?

Penn State’s fumble that should’ve been called a touchdown? Yes, Husker fans, you can admit the officials’ mistake without tarnishing the Rose Bowl run.

Matt McGloin’s conspiracy theory? Yes, he’s crazy for thinking Jerry Sandusky’s crime had anything to do with a replay official’s judgement.

How ‘bout the Huskers’ daredevil ways? They’re a blast to watch, but fans across the country are returning to work each Monday with more gray hair.

Let’s start instead with Taylor Martinez’s feet.

NU’s offense produced six points in the first half Saturday. The Huskers entered the locker room trailing by two touchdowns. How could that possibly be considered satisfactory?

Because it would’ve been worse had Martinez not converted four third downs with his feet. Four! That doesn’t include a third-and-18 conversion, when he dodged a blitz, scrambled and hit Jamal Turner for 30 yards.

Against Ohio State, Northwestern and Michigan, No. 3 was tentative. Too often he tried to fit balls into windows when he had alleys to run. All three of those defenses held him under 65 yards rushing.

The past two weeks, Martinez has been more aggressive with his feet, choosing the perfect times to run. He rushed for 205 at Michigan State and 104 against Penn State. He’s starting to mold the best of 2010 (explosive running plays) with the best of 2011 (command of the offense) and the best of 2012 (improved passing accuracy).

Martinez is still susceptible to big mistakes. That may never change. But when he’s not turning the ball over, he’s becoming a nightmare to defend.

>> My Sunday column focused on Nebraska’s offense and its ability to wear defenses down in the second half. That’s a critical piece of these historic rallies.

Ron Brown isn’t one to boast, but his comments to me after the game underscore the coaching staff’s remarkable confidence. I paraphrased most of those comments for the column, but the full conversation is enlightening:

“We have the capacity to run the ball so many different ways. We can run it outside, we can run it inside, we can do it out of one-back, out of two-back. We can give you a lot of different looks and run the same play. We can run inside zone, outside zone. And we have a quarterback who can scoot — he scares the heck out of people.

“And then we have the capacity to throw the football. We have speed on the outside. We have tight ends who are reliable receivers. So when you really look at it, it’s hard to stop our rushing attack because there are so many different dimensions. You can load people up in the box, but you’re going to get burned somewhere.”

“Even last week against Michigan State, they line up in the nine-technique. (Defensive ends) out on our tight ends. That (pitch) play normally should come underneath, and that’s what they wanted to do. They want it to come underneath, where they have all those people in the box.

“Ameer dips his shoulder and runs outside of the block and gets like 10 yards down the sideline.

“They’re playing man-to-man on the outside, because they want to make sure Kenny Bell and Jamal don’t get loose. So there’s nobody there. The corners are running inside with the receiver and there’s Ameer outrunning the nine technique. That shouldn’t happen. He’s getting outside of it on a kick-out block! That’s speed — and just the quick decision to go with it. The defense is designed to turn it inside.”

>> Defenses are showing pre-snap movements and blitzes Nebraska haven’t seen on film, Brown said.

“We’ve been the toughest offense in the league to stop, so people are staying up a little later at night, trying to figure some things out…They know they gotta do a good job on first down against us. That’s the best way to beat us — stop us on first down. Get us in long-yardage situations.”

>> Tim Beck likes Nebraska’s offensive tempo. But it’s not as fast as he’d like. Why? There’s a balance the offense must strike between playing fast and not wearing out the Blackshirts. Beck made a remark that could’ve been directed at old Big 12 peers.

“Some of these teams don’t care if they win 70-60,” he told me. “We do here.”

>> I enjoyed this comparison between Taylor Martinez and Johnny Manziel. The Texas A&M freshman jumped into the Heisman race Saturday by beating Alabama. He’s second nationally in total offense (379.4 yards per game) and he’s played three of the nation’s top five defenses. I understand Collin Klein’s value to K-State, but if A&M finishes strong, it would be hard to deny Johnny Football.

>> I know the SEC is the best in college football. I won’t argue otherwise. But the league did not have a good weekend. Not only did ‘Bama’s loss endanger the SEC’s national title streak, the Tide lost to A&M, a team that was in the Big 12 a year ago. That’s not all. Earlier in the day, Florida nearly lost to Louisana-Lafayette. SEC! SEC! SEC!

>> Pat Forde spells out a wonderful irony. In order for the SEC to win a seventh straight national title, USC needs to help. Which means Southerners must root for Lane Kiffin. Ha!

>> At least the SEC had a better weekend than Mike Leach and Tommy Tuberville. What is it with Texas Tech coaches — past and present — making fools of themselves? Bob Knight must have been nodding in approval when Tuberville lost his cool and smacked an assistant. Same for Billy Gillispie when Mike Leach allegedly abused his players.

>> Kansas State leads the BCS rankings. What is this world coming to? Seriously, though, if Oregon wins out, the Ducks will be No. 1 in the BCS. Which means the Rose Bowl could pick Notre Dame. In Wednesday’s Chatter, I’ll look at this scenario in detail.

>> Dan Wetzel says Notre Dame getting left out of the national title game would be a fitting legacy for the lame-duck BCS.

>> Texas A&M produces the most impressive win of the college football season — by far! — and only jumps four spots in the coaches’ poll? Whatever. Bruce Feldman on the hippest, hottest program in the country.

>> It takes something crazy for a golf story to make the Chatter in November. Charlie Beljan’s win at Disney fits the criteria. Friday, he was wheeled off the golf course on a stretcher. Sunday, he won his first PGA tournament.

>> Phil Jackson isn’t going to the Lakers. Mike D’Antoni is. From a fan standpoint, that’s a dramatic upgrade over the Princeton offense.

>> Houston Texans safety Danieal Manning had a big game on Sunday Night Football. An interception. A forced fumble. Why bring it up? Because Manning, of course, was a Husker recruit in 2001 before transferring to Abilene Christian.

Frank Solich’s talent evaluation wasn’t always pretty, but what really stands out about Husker recruiting 1998-2003 is the number of phenomenal athletes who — for a variety of reasons — didn’t pan out: Randy Stella, Carl Crawford, Lanny Hopkins, Manaia Brown, Richie Incognito, Curt Dukes, Matt Herian. That’s a lot of talent Nebraska never employed.

>> Five thoughts on Creighton’s opening win against North Texas, which I attended:

— The defensive and rebounding effort was noticeably better than last year. The Jays flat-out played hard — so hard they were sloppy in the first 10 minutes. The nicest surprise was Ethan Wragge, who doesn’t seem like he wants to be just a 3-point specialist anymore. Seven rebounds and three blocks (in just 13 minutes) against an athletic frontcourt? A great sign that Wragge is ready to break out.

Avery Dingman had 10 points in 11 minutes, so it’s easy to say he played well. But I expect Dingman to contribute more and more, even pushing Jahenns Manigat and Josh Jones for minutes at crunch time. Why? Clearly Dingman can shoot it. But at 6-foot-6, he’s big enough to defend prolific wing scorers. That’s what hurt Creighton a year ago.

— Point guard was the No. 1 concern entering the season. Friday didn’t change that. Austin Chatman may develop into a fine playmaker, but Antoine Young’s ability to make something out of nothing, especially late in the clock, was critical to Creighton’s offense. Chatman struggled early Friday — he and Andre Yates were dribble-happy — and he didn’t seem comfortable when he penetrated the defense. He’ll get better. But it’s not easy making plays in the paint at his size.

Doug McDermott finished 6 of 11 from the floor, but four of those attempts came in the final 6:18. Not only did he struggle to get shots against North Texas’ big frontcourt, but teammates missed him open a few times. Let’s see if that changes Wednesday against UAB. McDermott needs to average 15 shots a game.

— I never bought the idea that North Texas was a threat to beat Creighton. But winning by 20 while shooting 5-for-18 from 3-point range is encouraging. The Jays had a lot of good looks that rattled out.

>> Tim Miles won his first game Sunday night. Brandon Ubel went for 20 and 10. Ray Gallegos played well on the wing. Nebraska beat Southern comfortably — see what I did there?

But nothing happened to change the expectation of a very difficult 2012-13 season. Nothing happened that would worry Michigan State or Indiana or Ohio State. That’s OK. Miles’ first year isn’t really about winning. It’s about building a culture. Pushing the right P.R. buttons. Tapping the right recruits. Building habits inside the locker room and on the practice court that will carry over to seasons 2, 3 and 4.

I don’t expect the Huskers to win 10 games this year. I do expect them to be in a better place than Doc Sadler left them last March.

>> UNO men’s basketball split a pair of weekend home games at Ralston Arena. It beat Northern Illinois Friday, it lost an 11-point halftime lead Sunday against Saint Mary. The schedule gets more arduous now. The Mavs play at Texas Tech Wednesday. Friday they’re at Tulane, then Sunday they play at Nebraska. How’s that for a five-day stretch?

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com