Scott Frost said he never considered pulling Adrian Martinez from Saturday’s loss to Purdue, and while Martinez must continue to improve, the coach didn't think an outsized proportion of the Huskers’ offensive struggles should be pinned on one position.
“We missed some things offensively that we shouldn’t have missed, some of that was on the quarterback position and some of it wasn’t,” Frost told reporters Wednesday. “I think we did well enough there at times, there were times when we were struggling a little bit, and the quarterback was part of that, and then we’d put a couple of drives together and he made some fantastic plays, too.
“So, we just need to be a little bit more consistent.”
Martinez, a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Fresno, California, returned to action against the Boilermakers after missing two games (and 28 total days) with a left knee injury. He completed 22 of 39 passes for 247 yards and an interception, adding a team-high 58 rushing yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown runs, both of which gave Nebraska the lead.
The Huskers lost both games in Martinez’s absence, too, but received decent quarterback play from sophomore Noah Vedral in a 34-7 loss to Minnesota on Oct. 12 and freshman Luke McCaffrey in a 38-31 loss to Indiana two weeks later.
Frost wasn’t interested in delving into the details about whether the gap between his starter and the other two has shrunk over the course of the season, a conversation that could have several factors, including health.
“I don’t want to talk about depth chart or anything like that,” Frost said. “Adrian did some really good things (and he) needs to play better. We missed some wide-open guys Saturday, and that can’t happen. I don’t know how much of that has to do with his health, but the other guys are playing really well.
“So I feel good about the depth there.”
All three have been hurt at times this season. After Martinez went down with a left knee injury, Vedral suffered an ankle injury against Minnesota, prompting junior Andrew Bunch to close out the lopsided loss. Vedral returned against Indiana but aggravated the ankle injury, clearing the way for McCaffrey to play about a half before suffering a left knee injury of his own.
McCaffrey didn’t travel to Purdue because of the injury but was running sprints with a brace on his left knee Wednesday.
“There’s been a lot of challenges, but overall our quarterbacks have played well enough for us to win,” Frost said. “We have to do better around them. We’ve got to give them a little bit more time so they’re more comfortable sitting in the pocket. We need to get some more weapons in the program, and the guys on the field need to be in right spots so the quarterbacks can trust them there.
“Everybody always looks at the quarterback, and there's been some good and some bad there, and certainly having guys nicked up doesn’t help, but we’re going to continue to better around them."