Nebraska starting quarterback Taylor Martinez hasn’t missed a meaningful snap of Husker football since late in the 2010 season. But the fifth-year senior and captain could miss NU’s game against South Dakota State because of a turf toe injury.
Martinez wore a gray hoodie and a walking boot out of practice Tuesday instead of pads, and coach Bo Pelini confirmed that Martinez did not practice Monday, either. He’d be evaluated Wednesday and Thursday to see if he was healthy enough to play in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against the Jackrabbits.
“It just depends on his situation,” Pelini said. “It’s hard to look and see how he’ll proceed. If he’s healthy, he’ll play. We’re going to make sure he’s 100 percent and feeling good.”
In Martinez’s absence, senior Ron Kellogg III and redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong, Jr. split reps with the No. 1 offense. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said the two are “battling their guts out” in practice to figure who may start if needed. Pelini said the starter would be chosen based on “who can execute the offense and lead the offense and execute our gameplan.”
Beck said NU’s trainers and Martinez will decide if he’s healthy enough to play. Since this turf toe injury has been an ongoing issue from earlier in the season — not something he suffered during the UCLA game, Martinez has had to make sure he felt good enough in previous weeks, too.
But he clearly seemed limited as a runner against the Bruins. Pelini insisted Martinez was healthy after the game. Martinez, though in the boot, said the same.
Does Beck believe Martinez will tell him the truth about his health if it means sitting out a game?
“We sat down and talked a little bit, and he’s gotta be honest,” Beck said. “Probably the most difficult, hardest decision he’ll have to make — the most unselfish thing he can do — is not play. And know it’s a long season and he’s got to get healthy, because we need him. In the long run, we’re going to need the guy to come back and be the leader of our offense, because he is. That’s a tough decision for him to make. A lot of people would think he wants to play and just get out there and do his thing.
But he doesn’t have to prove to me he’s a tough kid. He’s shown that over and over and over again through the years. If he can go, he’ll go. I trust him to tell me that and do it. And if he can’t, he can’t.”
Beck broke down the strengths of Kellogg — an Omaha Westwide grad and Martinez’s best friend on the team, who just received a scholarship this offseason — and Armstrong, a highly-touted recruit from a state-title winning program in Texas.
Kellogg: “Calming influence. Veteran. Smart. Understands the offense. Gets in good plays.”
Armstrong: “Bring a lot of energy. Tough. Runs the football a little bit better than maybe Ronnie does.”
Beck said it’s “two different personalities but certainly they can do what we need to do.”
The OC said NU has narrowed its focus of offense. Beck said he thought he could widen the offense’s scope because of the experience of his returning offensive players, “but you forget they’re still young guys.”
“You become a jack of all trades instead of a master of one,” Beck said. “The details get you — and they got us. So we need to focus a little better on narrowing the gameplan a little better…we still want to be multiple and get people to play the whole field — play all of our personnel — and still get the ball in space to our guys and let our playmakers make plays.”