September 20, 2010

O-line took huge steps in win over Washington

The play of redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martiez and running backs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead stole the show in Nebraska's 56-21 win over Washington on Saturday.

However, none of it would have been possible without the game of the year from the offensive line, head coach Bo Pelini said.

During his interview on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference on Monday, Pelini said the Huskers' ability to dominate the line of scrimmage was the key to their 383 rushing yards as a team and blowout win over the Huskies.

"We're blocking well up front," Pelini said. "I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well the other day. It sure does help you. You've got to be blocking well up front and you've got to be playing pretty well in all phases of the game to be running the ball like that, and I think that was the case the other day."

By the time the final whistle blew on Saturday, Nebraska had put up six rushing touchdowns and averaged 7.1 yards per carry as a team. Martinez (137), Helu (110) and Burkhead (104) all broke the 100-yard mark in the game, marking the just the fifth time ever NU had three 100-yard rushers in a game and the first since 2001 against Baylor.

After fumbling inside their own 10-yard line and then giving up an easy touchdown to bring Washington back to within 21-14 late in the second quarter, the Huskers' offensive line reportedly insisted the coaching staff let them lead way into the end zone on the ensuing drive.

Eight straight running plays later, Martinez lunged in for a 1-yard touchdown run to send NU into halftime with a 28-14 lead.

"I think it starts up front," Pelini said. "When you're able to play well up front, it solves a lot of issues, and I think we've done that. I think for the most part we've gotten better on our offensive line, and we have more depth, we have more options. I think that's where it starts.

"I just think across the board our guys are playing pretty well. I wouldn't say there's one guy in particular. It's a team game, and you have one breakdown and you're plays aren't going to work. In this game, you've got to have execution across the board. We've had that all a lot, and I think our guys as a whole are doing a good job, and we need to continue to do so because the challenges are only going to get tougher as we move along."

Like always, Pelini went on to say Nebraska's offensive line was far from perfect, and even though it played arguably its best game since he took over in 2008, there was still plenty of work left to do this season.

However, Pelini admitted that Saturday's performance was a pretty big step in the right direction.

"We're still not as consistent as I'd like us to be, and there's still a lot of technique things we have to clean up," he said. "We're not the finished product by any means. So I think we still have a long way to go in a lot of areas, but I'll tell you I'm seeing some progress, which is real positive."

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