Taylor Martinez continues to improve in his recovery from a turf toe injury, and he’s even running full speed, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.
But it’s getting to full speed quickly – arguably Martinez’s biggest weapon – that’s still holding back the senior quarterback.
“Right now, he’s having trouble planting off that foot, pushing and getting to full speed,” Pelini said Monday at his weekly news conference. “He could ease into it, but that’s just not the way the game’s played. You have to be able to put that foot in the ground, and have comfort and confidence that you can do that.”
Martinez has missed Nebraska’s last two games after he’d made 32 consecutive starts, dating to his redshirt freshman season. He remains questionable for Saturday’s game at Purdue.
“I think he felt a lot better yesterday. I think it’s day-to-day,” Pelini said. “And if he’s ready to play, he’ll play. We’ll see how the next couple days play out, but he’s progressing, he’s getting better, and I know he’s itching to get back out there.”
Pelini said Martinez, a team captain, would likely be on the travel roster even if he’s been ruled out.
Nebraska has another bye week after the Purdue game, meaning Martinez could get two more weeks of rest if he doesn’t play. That thought has crossed Pelini’s mind, but he also said he’s not in any position to save players.
“You've got to do what you've got to do to win the game,” Pelini said. “And that’s all I’m concerned about, is Saturday.”
Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong will again start if Martinez is unable to play.
* BELL’S DAY: Kenny Bell’s leaping, one-handed reception that he turned into a 37-yard touchdown Saturday against Illinois was still a topic of conversation Monday. Bell said he was surprised he caught the ball, and was “blessed” to have done so.
But the junior wide receiver seemed more interested in discussing the receivers' role in helping running back Ameer Abdullah rush for a career-high 225 yards.
“Best blocking day we’ve had as a wide receiving corps since Michigan State 2011,” Bell said.
The blocking prowess of Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Turner and others isn’t surprising, or new. Coaches have always lauded the group for its determination and physicality on the perimeter.
Saturday’s effort, though, was especially sound, Bell said, and he was happy it came in the first Big Ten game of the season.
“It’s hard to find a wide receiving corps these days that will run all the way across the field and block a safety all the way 60 yards across the field and out of bounds into their sideline,” Bell said. “It’s what we wanted to see effort-wise.”
* PANEL NAMES: Former Nebraska coach and athletic director Tom Osborne is reportedly among the names you’ll see on next year’s college football playoff panel – exactly the kind of person Pelini would like to see in a room full of people deciding playoff teams.
“Obviously, you've got people who understand the game, and have been around the game and know football,” Pelini said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to make sure – and I’m sure Coach Osborne does – you have to make sure people on that committee are keeping up with it too, which isn't easy to do.”
Pelini said he saw one name on the panel list “that had me shaking my head,” but wouldn’t say who.
“I like Condoleezza Rice, though,” he said of the former U.S. secretary of state. “She's the real deal."
* HITTING THE ROAD: For the third time in the last decade, Nebraska plays its first road game after opening the season with five straight home games.
The Huskers opened their road schedule in 2005 with a victory at Baylor after going 4-1 at home, and lost their 2008 road opener at Texas Tech, after going 3-2 to begin the home season.
“It will be a good experience for our young guys,” Pelini said of playing on the road. “Some of them have been on road trips, but it’s different going on a road trip and then walking out there as a starter on the first play.”
The five straight home games allowed a young defense to learn and grow, Pelini said.
“We talked about that in the preseason going in, where we would be at the start and the level of work in front of us,” he said. “I thought the schedule set up well. It’s played out well to a certain extent. I’ve seen a significant amount of progress the past couple of weeks.”
-- Brian Rosenthal