Despite coming up against a South Alabama defense which was among the nation’s worst in 2018, Nebraska’s offense struggled to get things going on Saturday.
The Huskers’ normally potent rushing attack gained just 98 yards on 44 attempts, good for a paltry 2.2 yards per carry. Junior running back Dedrick Mills did score two touchdowns in his Husker debut, but offensive coordinator Troy Walters credited the defense for leading the team to victory.
“Last year if we’d played like we did [on Saturday], we’d have probably lost the game,” Walters said. “But the defense, kudos to them, they showed up and showed out and created turnovers. We won the game, but because we didn’t live up to our standard, it kind of felt like we didn’t win.”
The running game wasn’t the only part of the offense to struggle as sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez had one of his worst performances with the team. He completed 13-22 passes for 178 yards, throwing one interception as well, which quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco attributes to his own failings.
“Both of us were piss poor,” Verduzco said. “He’s a young guy and I’m in charge of getting him ready to go.”
Poor snap exchanges between freshman center Cameron Jurgens and Martinez hurt the offense early, but Walters said even when the snap was on target, something else was off.
“I think guys flew around and had good effort, just the details across the board weren’t there,” Walters said. “In this offense, if you’ve got 10 guys doing the right thing and one guy not on his detail, then the play’s not going to work.”
The offensive response to last week’s performance has been good according to Walters, especially after head coach Scott Frost criticized the team’s performance in practice last week. The team had a long outdoor practice on Tuesday and reviewed game tape showing how individual mistakes led to busted plays.
“The guys understand that, and they’ve come back this week with great focus and great detail and execution,” Walters said.
With last week’s game past them, the offense is now focusing on Colorado. The Buffaloes look vulnerable after giving up 31 points to Colorado State last week, but the Huskers are preparing for a tough rivalry test.
Walters knows of the atmosphere at Folsom Field better than most Huskers, as he coached wide receivers at Colorado from 2013-2015. He said it will be a big game, the type he would have loved to play in, but he is aware of the Buffaloes’ anti-Nebraska sentiments.
“They don’t like red there... it’s a great rivalry and I told our guys to embrace it all because it’s going to be a great atmosphere and I know there’s going to be a lot of red in the stadium,” he said.