LINCOLN — Sometime early in Nebraska’s 38-17 rout Saturday of Idaho, secondary coach Marvin Sanders jumped on the headset with a group of his defenders.
His message from the press box after watching the Vandals operate under the direction of quarterback Nathan Enderle? Get your hands on the ball. And that’s about when it dawned on the Huskers, according to safety P.J. Smith, that they could take control.
“A couple of us on the sideline said, ‘He’s throwing out presents,’” Smith said. “‘It’s gifts. We've just got to get it and go. It’s Christmas.’”
And so they went out and got it.
NU recorded five interceptions against Enderle, the heralded senior QB from North Platte, Neb.
Smith grabbed the first pick — batted high by cornerback Prince Amukamara — to help spark an eight-minute burst in the second quarter during which the Huskers scored 28 points while holding the football on offense for nine seconds.
At the end of the flurry, Nebraska led 31-0 four minutes before halftime.
“That’s what we can be when we’re executing and doing things the right way, ” coach Bo Pelini said.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez started it with a 67-yard TD burst, followed by Roy Helu’s 58-yard run and defensive scores on interception returns of 40 and 47 yards by DeJon Gomes and Rickey Thenarse.
Aside from that first-half burst of energy, though, it wasn't all that pretty for Nebraska in its final tune-up for a showdown at Washington next weekend. Sixth-ranked NU (2-0), before 85,732 at Memorial Stadium, fumbled eight times, losing three among four turnovers, and was penalized 10 times for 123 yards.
The Huskers drew the ire of Pelini, who criticized his team’s attention to detail and discipline. But it had nothing to do with Idaho, the Western Athletic Conference foe that dropped to 1-1 after its first meeting with Nebraska.
“When we do our thing, we’re a good football team,” Pelini said. “When we do it the way we’re coached and we play within the schemes and we execute, we’re a damn good football team. But we've got to take care of ourselves. That’s what we didn't do today.
“We’ll get that fixed this week. We’ll be fully ready as a football team to go to Seattle. I promise you that.”
The question left lingering: Can Nebraska sustain that second-quarter energy over 60 minutes?
“We have the ability to do it,” linebacker Eric Martin said. “We have to want to do it.”
The explosion against Idaho came from seemingly nowhere. NU sputtered through the first quarter, stalling in the red zone to settle for a field goal on its opening drive. Idaho’s Robert Siavii then sacked Martinez and Jonah Satarka recovered at the Vandals’ 21-yard line.
Next time Nebraska got the ball, the game changed in a hurry. Martinez, the redshirt freshman in his second start, expertly faked a handoff to Helu on the zone read and dashed 67 yards to score.
Smith thwarted Idaho’s next possession with his second interception of the year, returning it 15 yards to the NU 42. Enter backup QB Cody Green, who handed to Helu on the first play. Another touchdown.
Five plays later, Gomes did his thing. Then on third and 10, Nebraska re-inserted its top defensive line, apparently sensing an opportunity. Idaho noticed and called time out. Didn't matter. Thenarse stepped in front of Maurice Shaw and raced for another score.
“We've got to keep our foot on the gas,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “We can’t go into a lull mentally. We've got to stay in that moment, keep creating those plays.”
From there, it was just sloppy. But at least Nebraska has that surge to use as the standard for production.
“We were more aggressive,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. “We challenged them, and it led to some big plays for us. That’s going to be the way we play. I want us to be aggressive.”
Enderle finished 16 of 31 for 141 yards and the five interceptions, a nightmarish homecoming.
“He’s another quarterback to me,” said defensive tackle Jared Crick, who recorded 2½ of the Huskers’ seven sacks. “We hate quarterbacks.”
|Yards per carry||1.6||8.8|
Nebraska is 1-0 all-time against Idaho.
|Western Kentucky||Sept. 4|
|South Dakota State||Sept. 25|
|Kansas State||Oct. 7|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 23|
|Iowa State||Nov. 6|
|Texas A&M||Nov. 20|
Nebraska has played 9 games on Sept. 11. See them all »
©2018 BH Media Group