October 19, 2009

Quarterback competition officially set to begin

With a quarterback controversy officially opened up after Saturday's 31-10 loss to Texas Tech, head coach Bo Pelini said it could be a "game-time decision" as to whether junior Zac Lee or freshman Cody Green gets the start this week against Iowa State.

During his interview on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference on Monday, Pelini said the competition for the starting quarterback job was wide-open heading into the week.

"That will be a game-time decision," Pelini said. "Right now, nothing's changed. If and when it changes, we'll announce it… It's always open. That's how we've always approached it."

The controversy arose following two straight shaky performances from Lee. While he was able to cruise past Sun Belt Conference defenses earlier in the season, Lee has struggled against BCS conference competition.

In three games against Virginia Tech, Missouri and Texas Tech, Lee has averaged just 140 passing yards per game with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Not to mention the fact that the Huskers were a fourth-quarter comeback away from being 0-3 in the games.

On the other side, the big push for Green to surpass Lee as the starter has been because of his ability to make plays on his own, whether with his arm or his legs.

On Saturday, Green came in for a series in the third quarter. Though the drive ended in a three-and-out, the Huskers came a dropped tipped pass away from scoring their first touchdown and making it a game.

After Lee came back in and continued to struggle, Green replaced him for good early in the fourth quarter. From then on, the freshman completed 7-of-13 passes for 87 yards with a touchdown and a late interception.

His play was stellar by any means, but his ability to actually move the offense and reach the end zone was reason enough for many fans to make him the new starter.

"Cody did a couple of good things, and he did some things that he didn't grade out exceptionally well," Pelini said. "He's a young guy who went in there in a tough situation and he made a couple plays. He made some mistakes, a number of mistakes. He's a young guy. He's figuring some things out. He's got a ways to go."

During his teleconference, Pelini was asked if there was any chance he might run a two-quarterback system to let but Lee and Green get live game reps and continue to develop. Judging from his answer, it sounds like whoever ends up starting against the Cyclones will be there for the long haul.

"We're not real big on a rotating quarterback system," Pelini said. "It's hard to get a guy in a rhythm. But we'll see how it goes and how they practice and how they perform, and we'll go from there. There's a lot of variables. There's a lot of things that could happen. It'd be hard for me to look into a crystal ball and see this is going to happen for sure."

Quick hits

***Pelini said he would need his experienced offensive players to help step up and provide leadership while the Huskers try to find their identity on offense.

"It's got to be the guys who have some experience," he said. "Roy Helu, the guys up front - the guys who have a little more experience. Obviously we need leadership out of the quarterback position. We hit a rough patch, and we'll fight our way through it. It's just a matter of us executing, and we understand that. The players understand that. But there's some things we need to fix. We need to play better."

He went on to say that it will also take more than just leadership in the locker room to change NU's offensive fortunes.

"It goes beyond the locker room," Pelini said. "It's about how you perform on the field. That's what it comes down to. You can talk all you want, but you've got to put it on the field, you've got to put it on film, and that's something we're not doing consistently."

***True freshman running back Dontrayevous Robinson burned his redshirt on Saturday by playing on two kickoffs. Pelini was asked if the decision to play Robinson was done because the staff wanted him to be a factor in Nebraska's backfield.

"We'll see," he said. "We'll see how that plays out. We're not sure how that's going to work, but he's definitely in the mix, I can say that much."

***Pelini said both sophomore cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and senior wide receiver Chris Brooks suffered minor injuries on Saturday, but didn't expect either of them to miss any time as a result.

"They're both kind of day-to-day," he said. "Nothing's long term there. They're both questionable today and probable for tomorrow."

***Pelini also said that Helu is not suffering from a chronic shoulder injury, which offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said was the case on Saturday.

"It's not really a chronic shoulder injury," Pelini said. "He got a stinger. That happens in football. You get through it. It's really unrelated to what happened before."

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