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Husker notes: What happened to Nebraska's run game in the second half

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Rahmir Johnson

Nebraska's Rahmir Johnson leaps between Purdue's Kieren Douglas and Cam Allen.

LINCOLN — Nebraska ran the ball for 115 yards — and 6.1 yards per pop — in the first half.

In the second half, the Huskers had 10 carries for 15 yards. The first of those second-half carries, from Rahmir Johnson, went for 9 yards. So what happened?

Perhaps NU gained too many yards on that first carry. Coach Scott Frost told reporters after the game that Nebraska intended to dial up a “shot call” — a pass play designed to get big yards — the first time the Huskers got to second-and-1. That was on the second play of the half. Quarterback Adrian Martinez was sacked. Nebraska punted.

“We got a little deeper in our play-call sheet,” tight end Austin Allen said. “Some things worked, some things didn’t work. Seemed like we didn’t have a lot of plays.”

On the next drive, Johnson lost 4 yards on a carry and Martinez subsequently threw an interception. Three of Martinez’s four interceptions came in the second half and came early in drives.

“I can’t sit here and explain that 100% right now,” Martinez said of the run-game struggles. “I’m going to have to go back and watch the film, but it’s definitely a piece of the story.”

Frost said he wasn’t necessarily frustrated with Martinez on any of his interceptions, but on a third-down scramble that came up a yard short.

“That’s where you’ve got to be a little bit of a nut cutter and lower your shoulder or dive or jump or do whatever you can to keep a drive going,” Frost said. “He’s a great player. Some of those plays, our whole team needs to make.”

Martinez said he’d have to watch the film on the third-down scramble, too.

“Coach felt like I could have fought for some more yards there and he’s our head ball coach, so I’m going to listen to what he says,” Martinez said. “Simple as that.”

Allen pulls no punches

Allen pulled no punches with his performance.

The senior captain had three catches for 28 yards, but it was the one he couldn’t corral in the fourth quarter that turned into a Purdue interception and thwarted a late Husker drive. Allen was despondent afterward.

“I let my team down in that situation — we had momentum, driving, five minutes left, and I didn’t do my 1/11th on that certain play,” Allen said. “I let them down. Told the guys I failed them and nobody was going to work harder this week.

“There was a lot of attention to detail that was lacking on my end today. Not only did I let my teammates down, I let the whole state down. It’s just frustrating, on my end, because I didn’t control what I could control.”

Hearing the boos

Martinez heard the boos in Memorial Stadium during the second half. He understood the frustration. He was frustrated, too.

“Simply put, I wasn’t good enough,” Martinez said. “It’s not like we deserve to be applauded as we came off the field. We need to be better, and we will be. We have no other choice.”

Linebacker JoJo Domann noticed fans were leaving in the fourth quarter but he didn’t believe it had an effect on NU’s performance.

“Honestly, I don’t really care,” Domann said. “It is what it is. Husker faithful, stands by us, fair-weather (fans), we don’t need ya. It’s how it’s been and always will be.”

Later in Domann’s press conference, he asked the media and fans to stick with the football team.

“Hang with us, man, we’re doing our best,” Domann said. “It’ll turn around eventually. And when it does, it’ll be that much sweeter.”

Trying to find words

Jaquez Yant tried to find the words. He tried to tell reporters what was said in Nebraska’s postgame locker room Saturday.

But midway through his answer, Yant’s disappointment blocked his brain flow.

“Basically just telling us that we need to — I mean, we went out and played our hearts out, it was just — I don’t know,” Yant said. “I’m not in it right now.”

Yant tried again when asked why Nebraska’s offense, which scored 17 first-half points, stalled during the second half. Again, he couldn’t find the words.

“I feel like maybe — I truly don’t know,” Yant said. “Honestly.”

The Husker running back explained that Nebraska must keep pushing. They can still turn the season around. After all, Yant, who did not play much during Nebraska’s first five games, carved himself a role in the offense against Northwestern.

But carries don’t mean anything to Yant if they don’t accompany wins. And as Yant showed after Saturday’s game, Nebraska’s three-game losing streak — and the nature of each loss — is tough.

“It’s painful,” Yant said. “Even though you gave it your all, you keep coming up short. You’ve got to continue to fight to win, but it’s hard.”

Huskers still support Martinez

Martinez might be the best teammate Nouredin Nouili could have amid chaos. No matter the circumstance, the offensive lineman said, Martinez never dwells on a downturn.

But even the most resilient teammates need encouragement. So during Martinez’s four-interception performance, Nouili reminded the quarterback that the Huskers still have faith in him.

“You need to get ready,” Nouili said. “We’re still counting on you. We still believe in you. You’re our QB.”

Frost echoed Nouli sentiments, saying Martinez would remain the starting quarterback. Husker fans, who booed Martinez after his final two interceptions, might be hard to win back.

But Martinez didn’t change his demeanor Saturday. And Nouili is confident that Martinez won’t let fan frustrations bother him.

That’s why Nouli loves blocking for him. And that’s why the Huskers still believe in him.

“He’s not those guys, one of those guys that will drop down and (say), ‘Shoot,”’ Nouili said. “He’s one of those guys, (who) resets the play (and says) ‘We need to get down the field.’ I admire him for that.”


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