September 6, 2010

Pelini not concerned with shaky start for D

It's hard to get too picky about a 49-10 victory in a season opener, but there was definitely one aspect of Nebraska's win over Western Kentucky on Saturday that stuck out like a black eye.

Hilltopper running back Bobby Rainey's 30 carries for a game-high 155 yards and a touchdown were definitely points of concern for many fans following the win.

Despite the fact that Nebraska was short starting linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher and lost starting defensive end Cameron Meredith to an injury early in the game, there were worries about just how good the Huskers' front seven really was this season.

Head coach Bo Pelini, however, shared none of those concerns.

"We lost a couple guys, and you kind of lose your quarterback (Compton), the guy who was making all the calls and such, on Thursday, and that's going to create some issues for you," Pelini said during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference on Monday. "I'll put it this way, I'm not real concerned. I know these things are really easily fixable, the things that need fixed on the defensive side of the ball.

"I'll put it this way, I knew going in that there were going to be some rocky times in that game just because of where we were and how we'd been repping guys and that type of thing. That's part of the deal, and we have to react better than that."

Pelini said he was happy with the overall play of his front four and was especially pleased with the way his two inexperienced linebackers - junior Lavonte David and sophomore Alonzo Whaley - stepped up into their starting roles on such short notice.

While David was a leading candidate to start after Fisher went down a few weeks ago, Whaley didn't know he would be a starter until Compton was lost indefinitely with a foot injury midway through Thursday's practice.

Pelini said it was inexperience that played the biggest role in Nebraska's defensive miscues more than anything else.

"A lot of our issues weren't as much technique or getting beat or anything like that, it was alignment issues and communication issues," Pelini said. "We knew going in that was what we were going to facing because we lost some experience there, and we didn't really pull back on what we were doing defensively."

While Whaley was solid with five tackles on Saturday, David exploded onto the scene with a game-high 13 tackles and was seemingly around the ball on every play.

"He's a guy who's a pretty instinctive football player," Pelini said. "I'm sure it shows that he had good coaching in high school, but he's a quick learner. He's a guy who kind of gets it, and that's always a positive. Let's face it, he was thrown into a pretty difficult situation. I think he earned where he was (on the depth chart), but at the same time, he hasn't been around here a long time yet, so he's still got a lot to learn. He was thrown into the fire pretty quick, but he responded well."

Pelini reflects on Martinez's debut

With a full day to sit back and review his team's debut performance, Pelini continued to praise the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez in his first career start.

While Martinez wasn't perfect, Pelini said he's shown enough potential over the course of the offseason and on Saturday to think there will be even better performances to come from the Corona, Calif., native.

"I think he has tremendous upside," Pelini said. "I though he performed well. I think he's a guy who has a real steady, mature approach all the time. I don't think there was ever going to be a time with this guy where he gets too nervous. He's going to do his thing."

Pelini was obviously pleased with Martinez's 263 yards of total offense and three electrifying touchdown runs, but he said he was just as impressed with the play of his other two his quarterbacks.

By the end of the game, Martinez had led four scoring drives on eight total possessions, while sophomore Cody Green was a perfect 2-for-2 and senior Zac Lee helped lead NU to a touchdown oh his first drive and then had the clock run out after driving the WKU 9-yard line.

"I've said it before, I feel real good about all three quarterbacks," Pelini said. "It's not like we have to dramatically change what we're doing for any of them. I think that's a good situation, and it keeps the competition going and keeps continuity on the offense. They can all run, they can all throw, they're all pretty multi-purpose guys, and they've all proven to be that."

Quick hits

***Pelini said he was also pleased with the play of true freshman cornerback Ciante Evans, who made his collegiate debut on Saturday.

"He's played well," Pelini said. "He's had a good camp. I think he's a mature kid. He does the things we ask him to do, and he improves on them. He works on not making the same mistake twice. He's shown a great deal of maturity, and I think he has a really bright future."

***Pelini also assessed the play of the offensive line, saying there were still plenty of aspects to improve upon but overall it was a solid effort.

"I thought they did some good things," he said. "I thought there were a lot of positives, but also some things we need to get fixed. We played a lot of guys, we got a lot of guys reps, we got a lot of guys game action, and I think that's always going to make you better.

"You're always going to say you want to be more physical, because we haven't arrived yet, but I saw a lot of positives in regards to how our guys came out and played."

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