As Nebraska gets ready to take on Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa to close out the regular season, don't expect to see senior quarterback Taylor Martinez any time soon.
Head coach Bo Pelini addressed the status of Martinez again on Monday, and it's almost to the point now where it doesn't look like he'll be back at all this season.
"I want to clarify something, (Martinez) has some nagging injuries, but at the end of the day it comes down to his foot and his foot hasn't enabled him to play," Pelini said. "I know one thing - no one is more frustrated than Taylor. It's a foot injury that we knew could linger and it really hasn't gotten much better.
"Obviously I can't look into a crystal ball. It's been tough on the kid and I don't know if the chances are real good. It's not a good injury to have. You just don't know. It's one of those injuries it's difficult to say when it's going to heal. I feel for the kid. It's a tough thing to happen to you during your senior year."
Martinez also wasn't in Ann Arbor this weekend to watch the Huskers beat the Wolverines, which created some interesting message board debate about his absence. The week before against Northwestern Martinez watched the game next to sports writers on level six of the press box in West Stadium, along with multiple other injured players.
The Big Ten allows you to travel injured seniors and not have them count against your 70-man travel roster by getting a special waiver. Offensive lineman Spencer Long traveled to Michigan on that waiver, and Pelini said safety Wil Richards had the same waiver, but didn't travel. Junior offensive lineman Jake Cotton traveled to Michigan, but he was on the 70-man travel roster, even though it was basically known he was out.
A year ago wide receiver Tim Marlowe traveled to Ohio State on a waiver, and unlike the Long and Richards injuries, he returned later that season. Pelini said don't read anything into Martinez not being in Ann Arbor, but it's sure hard not to considering he's a captain and could still provide some valuable help to Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg from the sidelines during the game. You feel for the kid right now, after he's given Nebraska so much over the last four years.
The new players that were added to the roster and brought to Michigan over Martinez were walk-on running back Graham Nabity, walk-on wide receiver Lane Hovey, scholarship wide receiver Tyler Evans and walk-on offensive lineman Brandon Chapek - none of which got into the game, but apparently still have more value than a four-year starting quarterback that's a captain of your football team.
"With our injuries we needed to bring a bunch of people," Pelini said. "With our injuries we weren't sure if anybody was going to go. Drake (Martinez) had surgery the other day, so his mindset was we weren't sure if we were going to take anybody that wasn't going to suit up, other than obviously Spencer Long who has a waiver, and really Wil Richards had a waiver, but he didn't go. I wouldn't read anything into that."
As Nebraska gets ready for this week's challenge, they will be facing arguably one of the best defenses in the country. However, it's a defense they've had great success against the last two seasons, the only difference is they won't have Martinez's legs to go for 200 yards rushing like a year ago.
Even without Martinez, Pelini has plenty of confidence in Armstrong and Kellogg.
"Tommy Armstrong is not going to be intimidated, that much I know," Pelini said. "He's going to be challenged, I will you that, because (Michigan State) is good. They execute well and they know what they want to do and they do it very well. It's going to be about our level of execution and not anything else. Our guys aren't going to back down."
Hearing the boos
After basically getting booed at times by their own fans for their poor play, it was quite a satisfying feeling on Saturday for Nebraska's defense to make the 110,000 people in Michigan Stadium boo the Wolverine offense after shutting them down for four quarters.
"It felt good," linebacker Michael Rose said. "It felt gratifying for us, especially as a defense. Just what we've been through throughout the season and kind of the slip-ups we had. It felt gratifying, but we also have to realize it's just one week and we have to get ready for this next challenge."
Rose said when they heard the booing in the first quarter it really sparked them for the rest of the game.
"We were excited," Rose said. "We fed off of it. Even when they were cheering we had a bunch of Michigan fans hassling us on the sidelines. It was almost fun being in that environment. It was us against the world and that's kind of the concept Coach (Bo) Pelini preached all week and I think that's one of the reasons why we played so well."
Three and out
***Several different bowl projections have Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in the Dec. 28 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe. If they Huskers don't win the Big Ten that seems like the most likely scenario since the Big Red has been to Orlando twice and Jacksonville once over the last five years. Sending them to Tampa for the Outback Bowl doesn't make a whole lot of sense because of its close proximity to Orlando. An Oklahoma vs. Nebraska bowl game would fill the stadium, I can tell you that for sure.
***Michigan State's defense ranks first in five defensive categories in the Big Ten and first nationally in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense and total defense and third nationally pass defense and scoring defense. However, if anybody has played an easier schedule than Nebraska, it's been the Spartans. They are playing on all cylinders now, but they only beat Western Michigan 13-6, South Florida 21-6 and Purdue 14-0. Their win over Michigan opened a lot of eyes, but after what Nebraska did to the Wolverines, it's hard to gauge if MSU is truly an elite team or more the benefactor of a great schedule.
***I really enjoyed my time in Ann Arbor this weekend. Just seeing Michigan's band take the field and 110,000 people in that stadium is what college football is all about. It's too bad Nebraska won't be back there until 2018.
Sean Callahan can be reached at [email protected] and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.