Quarterback biggest question for Nebraska entering Troy game
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The circumstances for Nebraska are far from ideal as it eyes its first road game under new coach Scott Frost next week at Michigan.
The Cornhuskers went late into this week not knowing the status of true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez, making their Saturday game against Troy a little trickier.
Frost said it could take until pregame warmups to know if Martinez’s injured right knee has healed enough for him to play. If he can’t, sophomore walk-on Andrew Bunch will make his first start.
Bunch was part of the competition with Martinez until near the end of preseason practice, and he was good in relief of Martinez late in last week’s season-opening loss to Colorado.
“I’m ready,” Bunch said. “I’ve prepared all week, and I’m confident. The coaches have done everything to put me in a good position to go win the game or to do my part, so I’m ready.”
Troy (1-1) went 11-2 and won the Sun Belt Conference championship during a 2017 season highlighted by the Trojans’ 24-21 victory as a three-touchdown underdog at then-No. 25 LSU. That game ended LSU’s 49-game home win streak over nonconference opponents.
Many of the principles from that game are gone, like Jordan Chunn, who ran for 191 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Brandon Silvers. But there remains a carry-over from the upset. Troy is an 11-point underdog for this game.
“You grow up, you see Nebraska play on TV a lot, you see them play big games, and you see small teams like Troy, and they upset teams like that,” offensive lineman Zach Branner said. “We’re a small team but we play hard and they can’t take us for granted, just like we couldn’t take FAMU for granted.”
The Trojans’ 59-7 win over Florida A&M of the Football Championship Subdivision last week came after their 56-20 home loss to Boise State.
For Nebraska, uncertainty at the most important position in its fast-paced spread option offense complicates things. Offensive coordinator Troy Walters said he’ll be confident if Bunch is the one taking the snaps.
“This fall, he was working with the 1s at times,” Walters said. “He knows what to do. He knows this offense. He knows what’s expected of him. He’s a sharp guy. He can beat you with his legs, and he’s got a good enough arm as well.”
This will be the fifth meeting between the schools. The Huskers defeated Troy four times from 2001-06, with each of the games in Lincoln.
THAT ‘L’ SMARTED
One encouraging sign after the Colorado game was that Nebraska players felt the disappointment of losing more deeply than they did in previous seasons, according to running back Devine Ozigbo.
“We see the good things we did, but this loss hurt,” he said. “It just hit a little harder, like we know what we need to do and we’re willing to make those changes in practice to get it done for next week. It wasn’t like we didn’t do that in the past, but you can just tell it’s a different intensity about this one.”
OPTIONS APLENTY WHEN RUNNING
Nebraska rushed for 329 yards against Colorado, with four players getting eight or more carries. Martinez ran for a team-high 117 yards, and running backs Greg Bell went for 104, Ozigbo for 60 and Maurice Washington for 34.
Troy’s defense has been good against the run, allowing 2.9 yards per carry through two games.
Turnovers are an area Nebraska needs to shore up after a minus-3 mark against Colorado. Troy has forced 28 turnovers in its last 15 games, including five this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“You grow up playing all these NCAA (video) games, and you’re playing on the road and seeing all those big stadiums. When it comes down to it, it’s just football. It’s 11 vs. 11. It’ll be a great venue to play at, something I’ll remember for sure. It comes down to us playing the game that we play and sticking to our rules and playing well.” — Troy quarterback Kaleb Barker, on playing at Memorial Stadium.