October 17, 2009

Freshman Green makes case for starting job

After watching junior quarterback Zac Lee struggle miserably for a full half, Memorial Stadium's second-largest crowd ever finally got what it wanted in the third quarter.

With 10:59 left in the quarter, Lee was replaced by true freshman Cody Green. While his first drive ended with a whimper after a pair of costly drops, Green came back in with roughly 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and finally got something going for NU's offense.

On the drive, Green completed 7-of-16 passes for 87 yards and, most importantly, finally got the Huskers into the end zone on a 13-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman receiver Khiry Cooper.

"Cody did some good things," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "What I liked about what Cody did - he really competed. I thought he made some nice throws. He had some young things that he did, but he doesn't have a lot of things. He does a nice job with his composure and his poise. I like that."

Considering Lee's less-than-impressive play the past two games (minus the fourth quarter against Missouri) and Green's ability to provide a spark, one of the biggest questions following Saturday's loss was whether it was time to make Green the full-time starter.

"We'll sit down and look at it," Watson said. "We'll evaluate it and take a good look at it and see what we need to do."

Watson said he and head coach Bo Pelini originally decided to pull Lee out in the third quarter just to give him a series to take a step back and watch the game from a different perspective. Even though Green had two of his passes dropped on his first drive, Watson said the staff wanted to put Lee back in and let him try and regain some confidence.

"I just don't think he was seeing it well," Watson said. "Maybe he just overanalyzed it a little bit. I think (Texas Tech) did a good job too. I'm not going to take anything away from Tech, but there's a lot of options out there to take advantage of."

When Lee continued to struggle and was benched for the second and final time, Watson said Lee took it about as well as could be expected.

"He handled it well," Watson said. "He understands. He knows. We talk, and we always communicate with guys. Zac understood why I was doing what I was doing."

After the game, both Lee and Green were asked about the starting quarterback job being re-opened for competition this week. Lee said he didn't feel nervous about having to re-earn the starting role, as the position has been up for competition since the first day of practice.

"We're always competing in practice," Lee said. "That's how practice is every day. That's never changed since Day 1."

Green was humble while addressing the situation, but agreed with Lee that the competition might be a bit more intense this week.

"(The coaches) always say, if you can go take a guy's job, take a guy's job," Green said. "The main thing is just compete, because it makes you better and it makes the other person better. It's the only thing we can do."

If the opportunity did end up presenting itself by the end of the week, or at any point the rest of the season, would Green be ready to take over as the starter?

"Yeah," he said. "When that point comes, I'll step up."

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