Through two weeks of college football games, Nebraska is among seven FBS teams yet to allow a sack.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez says he doesn’t remember getting sacked in fall camp, either.
Hold off on those accolades just yet, though.
“We’re not talking about it,” NU offensive line coach John Garrison said.
Pats on the back are in short supply because, well, the season’s still young, and because Nebraska’s next opponent, UCLA, boasts a player who had as many sacks last season as did South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.
UCLA senior Anthony Barr is an outside linebacker in the Bruins’ 3-4 alignment but can be a dangerous speed rusher off the edge, particularly on third-and-long plays. His 13½ sacks last season are the most among any returning FBS player.
“They bring him from the second level, they’ll put him at a linebacker and they’ll bring him from the edge,” Garrison said of the 6-foot-4, 248-pound Barr, who earned second-team All-America honors last season. “You don’t see too many guys with his length, speed and physicality. It’s pretty rare. That’s what makes him a pretty special player.”
Think in terms of San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who set a franchise record last season with 19½ sacks.
“(Barr) doesn’t play much with his hand in the dirt,” Garrison said, “but he certainly plays a physical style, and he’s got the speed and the hands that remind me a lot of (Smith).”
What’s the key to keep Barr — blitzing or otherwise — out of the Nebraska's backfield Saturday?
“It’s going to be about getting a good set on him,” Nebraska offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles said, “and you’ve got to stay inside-out on him and get your hands on him, because he’s a very good hands player.
“Once he gets fighting with his hands and he can get his hands on you, then he kind of gets a two-way go on you. It’s going to be a lot about having a good set and sitting on his inside number.”
Nebraska’s other starting tackle, Andrew Rodriguez, describes Barr as “relentless” and “an all-purpose type of dude” who’s fast and loves to play.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Rodriguez said. “It’s what you like. It’s what gets you jacked.”
Barr had two tackles for loss, including one sack, among his four stops in UCLA’s 36-30 victory over the Huskers last season. His season sack total was second in the nation behind Jarvis Jones of Georgia, who had 14½, and his 21½ tackles for loss tied him for fourth in the nation.
That’s after Barr switched from fullback, where he played his first two seasons under former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.
Barr is part of an athletic, active UCLA defense that’s not afraid to blitz, as the Bruins did last year against Nebraska, when they had 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
It also leaves UCLA vulnerable to big plays.
“If they do (blitz), they better have a lot of confidence in their corners, because I know we have really good receivers out there,” Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah said. “I’m not sure what they are going to do. They could sit back there and not blitz the whole game, or they could play zero coverage the entire game.
“It doesn’t matter. We are going to see everything in practice, prepare for any kind of situation, and whatever comes on Saturday, we will be prepared for.”
As for Martinez staying upright through two games, the quarterback referred to what he said at Big Ten media day in July, when he declared this veteran offensive line among the best Nebraska has ever had.
“They’ve done a really good job protecting me,” Martinez said. “Even when there’s an all-out blitz coming, they pick 'em all up.”
Rodriguez credited Martinez for making better decisions.
“He’s been smarter with the ball,” Rodriguez said. “He’s grown up. He’s just smarter. He’ll throw it away if he doesn’t see anything.
“We’re more cohesive as a unit, and communication’s better. We’re all across the board communicating well.”