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October 7, 2013
There's no beating around the bush on this. The schedule Gods were very kind to Nebraska and head coach Bo Pelini in 2013.
Here we are in Week 7 of the college football season and the Huskers will finally go on the road for the first time. However, instead of traveling to Madison or Columbus like they did in 2011 and 2012, NU opens up Big Ten Conference play on the road at Purdue against an offense ranked 117th in the country that has a true freshman starting at quarterback - the perfect recipe for Pelini's young defense.
With such a young and inexperienced defense coupled with the injury to quarterback Taylor Martinez Nebraska couldn't have had a better set-up to start this 2013 season. NU ideally still has another three weeks to get their kinks figured out before the calendar turns to the month of November.
"I kind of talked about that in the preseason going in where I thought we'd be to start and the level of work that was in front of us," Pelini said. "I thought the schedule set up well for us as far as being able to get that accomplished. I think it's playing out to a certain extent, because I've seen a significant amount of progress in the last couple of weeks, but let me qualify that and say we still have a lot of work to do."
Even though Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium isn't exactly considered a hostile road environment, we still should be able to learn a lot more about this team in their first road test of 2013.
There will be a lot of players on Saturday that have either never traveled before or that haven't played significant snaps on the road in their Husker careers.
"I think it's always a concern and always an issue," Pelini said when talking about going on the road for the first time. "I'm kind of glad the game is early. You get up and go get ready to play. Our guys are used to getting up early and I think that will help us to a certain extent. I think it will be a good experience for our guys. Some of these guys have been on road trips, but there's a difference between being on a road trip and walking out there as a starter on the first play."
One of those players who hasn't played on the road before is redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who is expected to start again this week if Martinez is held out.
"I'm excited to watch Tommy (Armstrong) play on the road to see how he handles it," junior wide receiver Kenny Bell said. "I have nothing but confidence in him. He's one heck of a competitor and one heck of a football player. It's going to be difficult. Definitely you might see us struggle at the beginning with communicating. I'm looking forward to it. It will be nice to get on the road with just the team and go play a football game."
Really the only player on NU's current roster that has any type of experience traveling to West Lafayette for a Purdue game is sophomore defensive end Randy Gregory, who at one time was a commit to the Boilermakers.
Gregory tried to stay as politically correct as he could when describing the atmosphere at Ross-Ade Stadium, but the bottom line is this is not one of the Big Ten's top road atmospheres.
"It's a lot different than here," Gregory said when talking about the atmosphere at Purdue. "Our fans travel pretty well. (Purdue) hasn't been able to fill up their stadium for a while, and we may have just as much red as they do black and gold over there. We'll have to see I guess."
Resting Martinez makes sense
If Nebraska can rest Martinez once again this week, it makes perfect sense. That would give Martinez two additional weeks to get rested when you tag on the open date the following weekend.
Pelini made it sound like he's close, but the fact that he can't stop and go on a dime still remains an issue. Pelini saw enough in the loss to UCLA what this Husker offense looks like if Martinez can't run the football.
They also shouldn't need Martinez to beat Purdue on the road. The Boilermakers are ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense and scoring offense at 17 points per game. Their leading rusher averages just 38.6 yards per game. A san offense Purdue has just one rushing touchdown and five receiving touchdowns in five games.
More recruiting staff?
There's been a lot of buzz from Husker fans about Nebraska positing two positions to expand their recruiting staff.
Pelini addressed the possible hires on Monday, and said with rule changes in the near future it only makes sense to expand the recruiting department with more full time positions.
"Everything you can do to get more information out. And to identify guys earlier. Everything is getting sped up so much," Pelini said. "I feel it's like coaching defense. Everything is getting sped up. It's always an issue. It's always a concern that you have to keep addressing. I think obviously Jamie (Williams) and Shawn (Eichorst), they understand that too. At the same time, you have to play within what the rules are. You have to do it the right way.
"You have to have a purpose behind what you're doing and a plan. I think we do. It's just about finding ways to get an edge and get better. Just keep looking at ways to keep improving what we're doing."
Three and out
***Of all the teams in the Big Ten, Nebraska has the least amount of history with Purdue. The two schools have played only once - 1958. The Boilermakers won that game 28-0 in front of 2,475 people at Ross-Ade Stadium. Bill Jennings was the coach of the 1958 Huskers that went 3-7. They were led by former All-American and All-Pro defensive back Pat Fischer.
***Senior Nebraska wide receiver Quincy Enunwa leads the Big Ten with six receiving touchdowns after six weeks. That's probably one of the more impressive numbers on this team through the first half of the season.
***Looking forward to the first road trip of the season. I'm told a few spots to hit up in West Lafayette this weekend are Lafayette Brewing Company, Bruno's for pizza and Scotty's Brewhouse.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.