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Nebraska v. South Dakota State, FB, 09/21/2013

Nebraska offensive players Jeremiah Sirles (from left), Imani Cross and Jake Long celebrate a touchdown scored by wide receiver Tyler Wullenwaber (82) during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, at Memorial Stadium.

If Taylor Martinez isn’t 100 percent healthy for Saturday’s game, Tim Beck said, he might use the two-quarterback system he employed against South Dakota State.

Beck keeps an open mind on the matter.

Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong and fifth-year senior Ron Kellogg III have been practicing well, according to coaches.

“I’m just going to play it by ear and see as we go into the game how they prepare — and kind of go from there,” said Beck, the third-year Nebraska offensive coordinator. “We’ll see if anyone has the hot hand or is seeing things better. I mean, there are so many scenarios that go into the decisions that are made.

“I think those guys understand that.”

Beck didn’t rule out Martinez playing Saturday. A starter since his freshman season, Martinez didn’t suit up for practice Tuesday, but did some drills in sweats, Beck said.

“We’re just getting him ready mentally right now,” the coach said. “We’re making sure he understands the game plan. He’s played a lot of football around here. … If there’s a guy who could miss a couple practices, it’s him.

“It’s a day-to-day thing. We’ll just kind of see what happens.”

Beck would like to see Martinez get in some “live work” Wednesday or Thursday.

“He’s got to be 100 percent. He’s got to be able to do what we need him to do to help us win the game. I would say if he doesn’t get any (live) work, it would be highly unlikely that he’d play.”

Martinez hasn’t practiced fully since the Sept. 14 loss to UCLA.

As for a two-QB system, Beck doesn’t mind using it “if it helps us win,” he said.

“I think those guys (Armstrong and Kellogg) are very compatible,” the coach said. “They do a good job. And I think it doesn’t really affect our team. I think it’s a tribute to running two huddles (in practice) and playing fast.”

* KEEPING 'EM CLEAN: One stat the Huskers have excelled in is sacks allowed. Nebraska has given up just two sacks so far in the first four games.

A year ago, the Huskers allowed 35 sacks and ranked 105th nationally. Nebraska's offensive line will hope to keep its quarterbacks clean this week against an Illinois defense that has registered just four sacks and eight quarterback hurries this year.

Senior offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles said pass protection has been "a huge emphasis" since last year's struggles.

“We have it up on our board, this many sacks, how many we’ve had this week. Those two sacks still bother us because we want to have zero sacks," Sirles said. "That’s the ultimate goal as an offensive line, to keep your quarterback clean. We’ve done a decent job at it at times.

"There’s been a few times our quarterback has gotten hit where he doesn’t need to get hit. There’s a few times where we missed an assignment and a back has saved us. But I think overall as an offensive line, we’ve done a pretty good job really using that as a focus point."

* ANDERSON'S ANKLE: Zaire Anderson said Tuesday he's missed the past two practices after he "messed his ankle up."

However, the junior said he thinks he "should be good" to play in Saturday's game. "I'm just getting a lot of mental reps right now."

Anderson played sporadically during the nonconference slate due to the offensive schemes the Huskers faced.

But the linebacker said he's remained dialed in.

"I know I haven't been playing a lot early, but I know when the team needs me, I just got to step up and just do my job when my number's called," he said.

* CHECKING ON CHARLES: Sophomore Charles Jackson is hopeful he might see some more game reps at safety Saturday.

"Hopefully. Either way, I'm going to work as hard as I can and do what I have to do," he said. "When my time comes, it comes."

Jackson is among four players competing to provide an answer at the safety spot next to Corey Cooper. Harvey Jackson has been the main option up to this point, with Andrew Green and LeRoy Alexander also in the mix.

A popular player with many fans due to his physical nature on special teams, Charles Jackson said he has mostly been working with the 2s since the South Dakota State game.

What does Jackson think is still holding him back at the position?

"It's just the mental aspect of the game, just getting in the film room a lot more, taking more time out of my day … that's pretty much what it is," Jackson said. "I think that's what's been holding me back, and I'm getting better at that."

Added Jackson: "When I say the mental aspect of the game, I mean knowing what the coaches expect out of me every single play, every single down."

— Brian Christopherson and Steven M. Sipple

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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