December 24, 2012

Huskers born to run

Scheme: Up-tempo power-spread

Offensive coordinator: Tim Beck (second season)

Total yards: 6,008 (462.2 per game)

Points per game: 456 (35.1)

Rushing yards: 3,308 (254.5)

Passing yards: 2,700 (207.7)

All-Conference players on offense: Media/Coaches teams

First team: OG Spencer Long (media and coaches); Taylor Martinez (coaches)

Second team: Martinez (coaches); WR Kenny Bell (media and coaches); OT Jeremiah Sirles (media and coaches); IB Ameer Abdullah (coaches)

Regular season offensive MVP: His conference-leading 17 turnovers have certainly given Nebraska fans headaches, but Taylor Martinez's moments of brilliance make the blunders worth it. The junior improved greatly as a passer this season and, if given time, is capable of picking apart a secondary on a good day. But his greatest threat is his legs, as he showed during his 76-yard touchdown run on a broken play against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Martinez became NU's all-time leader in total offense and passing yards this season.

Offensive player under the radar: He may have been snubbed by not making the all-Big Ten squad, but few receivers in the conference are better than Kenny Bell. Though his numbers dropped a bit at the end of the season, he still had 46 catches for 803 yards and eight scores. His speed makes him a great deep-ball threat as well as a run-after-catch nightmare. Bell is also among the nation's better perimeter blockers and isn't afraid to make a defender pay.

Best game on offense: Northwestern. The Husker offense was quiet for much of the game and was hurt by a pair of muffed punts that allowed the Wildcats to take a 28-16 lead with 8:31 remaining in the game. But Martinez completed ten of his 13 passes from that point on, leading the Huskers on a pair of touchdown drives to steal a win. Martinez finished with 342 yards through the air, Ameer Abdullah chewed up 101 yards on only 19 carries and the offense soared despite missing the injured Rex Burkhead.

Worst game on offense Ohio State. The Huskers mustered 38 points, but many of those came well after the game's outcome had been decided. Martinez in particular struggled, tossing a trio of interceptions and losing a fumble. Burkhead rushed for 119 yards but reinjured his knee, which would cause him to miss four of the next five games. Nebraska appeared flustered by the loud atmosphere at the Horseshoe, suffering several false start and delay of game penalties.

Overall offensive strength: Running game. Few teams in the country run the ball better than Nebraska does. The Huskers' 254.5 yards per game led the Big Ten are sixth best in the country. Both Burkhead and Abdullah are capable or churning out yards on the ground and if Martinez can find a seam, he's very tough to catch. Guard Spencer Long, a second-team All-American, powers the offensive line.

Biggest offensive concern or weakness: Turnovers. The Huskers have given the ball away an astounding 32 times this season. The giveaways were the main culprit that prevented the offense from being among the country's best. Martinez's 10 interceptions aren't back-breaking, but Nebraska fumbled 34 times this season, losing 21. The Huskers have consistently been a turnover-prone team during Bo Pelini's tenure, but this season was worse than the others. When the offense avoids giving the ball away, it can be very difficult to stop.

Key injuries on offense: Center Justin Jackson broke his ankle in the regular-season finale against Iowa. Backups Cole Pensick and Mark Pelini are serviceable, but neither have the experience or fiery leadership that Jackson provided. Burkhead has missed a lot of time this season with knee injuries, but he's played in NU's last two games and should be good to go after a month of rest.

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