Nebraska has not been known for its offense recently. The last two years have seen a terrible offense in 2009 and a good offense in 2010 that relied on quarterback Taylor Martinez's running ability and was ineffective after his injury.
This year, Nebraska promised us something new, though we have yet to see the new offense the coaches and players talked about. The offense still relies heavily on the running ability of Martinez and not much on anything else.
While the offense did what it needed to do against Fresno State, it has not lived up to its potential and needs to improve. The Cornhuskers have a tough test in Washington and will need to make some key adjustments in order to win this game.
Brandon Kinnie was supposed to be the top wide receiver for Nebraska. So far he has two catches for seven yards along with seven drops. The other top receiver Nebraska was supposed to have is Tim Marlowe, who has two catches for 16 yards.
Neither has been productive, while their replacements have excelled. Jamal Turner and Kenny Bell have done much better than Kinnie or Marlowe. Until they actively contribute and produce on the field, Bell and Turner should take their place.
Throughout the end of summer, the coaches said the trio of freshmen running backs were doing very well and would be key playmakers. We have only seen them once, besides Ameer Abdullah as a return man.
Nebraska also has three freshmen wide receivers that can be big-time playmakers. Turner and Bell have already proven that, and Stanley Jean-Baptiste reportedly has speed. Why have the Nebraska coaches not used them more?
In the Fresno State game, Nebraska benched Kinnie and Marlowe to play Bell and Turner, which worked well. It should be done again this game. During the Chattanooga game they showed the Diamond formation once with all three freshmen running backs.
Nebraska has talent at the skill positions and it will need to use them to beat good teams.
Washington has shown during the last two games that it does not have a pass defense. They Huskies rank 120th out 120 teams in pass defense, granted one of the teams they played was pass-happy Hawaii, but the other was against an FCS team. Both Hawaii and Eastern Washington were in the game late in the fourth quarter and could have beaten Washington.
Last week against Fresno State, Nebraska showed it could air the ball out when needed. Last year against Washington, the Huskies were expecting the run and were caught off guard when Martinez started airing out the ball for long passes. Nebraska needs to do that again to catch Washington off-guard and free up the box for the run.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck and Martinez have both said the offense can go fast, possibly Oregon fast. Why have we not seen that yet? Nebraska needed offensive production last week, and turning up the tempo to catch the Bulldogs off-guard would have been productive.
Beck has done a lot of talking, but we have yet to see this up-speed tempo he has promised.
At this time last year, Nebraska had six turnovers, five fumbles and one interception. This year Nebraska has four. Two were fumbles by freshmen in garbage time, the other one was a Hail Mary interception at the end of the half.
So, Nebraska has been doing a lot better on cutting down the turnovers. Yes, Martinez does not always secure the ball when he runs, but he has gotten much better at it. Technically, he has only had two turnovers this year compared to the six he had at this time last year.
Nebraska could not get a power run game going against Fresno State because it was being dominated in the trenches. The offensive line is young, but it needs to get the push and dominate the trenches to allow the run to work and to protect Martinez.
Washington has a good defensive tackle and the young guards will need to work hard to fend him off. If they can get it done, Nebraska should come away with the victory in its biggest test yet.