LINCOLN, Neb. – After passing his trial run as Nebraska's starter, Taylor Martinez can strengthen his grip on the quarterback's job with another strong outing Saturday against Idaho.
Martinez won over his teammates, not to mention the fans, in last week's 49-10 season-opening win over Western Kentucky. Now the redshirt freshman is poised to establish himself as the sixth-ranked Cornhuskers' clear starter going into next week's test at Washington.
"I just feel like now he knows it's his huddle, and he's going to run the show," receiver Mike McNeill said. "He's got a lot of confidence."
Martinez ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 136 yards against a Western Kentucky team that has lost 21 straight. He should get a better measure of himself against Idaho, which beat Bowling Green in the last seconds of the Humanitarian Bowl last year and opened with a 45-0 rout of North Dakota.
Nebraska's quarterback shuffle has gone as smoothly as offensive coordinator Shawn Watson could have hoped. Martinez beat out 2009 starter Zac Lee, a senior, and top backup Cody Green, a sophomore.
Watson said Lee and Green have offered their help to Martinez in film study and on the practice field.
"I'm proud of what they've done because both Cody and Zac wanted to have that opportunity," Watson said. "Those guys have put the team first, which is part of our culture here."
Watson told the quarterbacks the pecking order five days before the opener. To that point, Green said, Watson had updated the three almost daily about where they stood in the competition.
"That's all you can ask for," Green said. "It would be a lot worse if everything was secretive and then, bam, here is the starter. It wasn't like that. We knew (Martinez) was starting, and we knew the reason why he was starting."
Lee declined an interview request, as did Martinez.
Watson said Martinez, who was clearly uncomfortable speaking with reporters after last week's game, reluctantly accepts all that comes with being a Nebraska quarterback.
"I see that he knows he is getting attention," Watson said. "I think he would really like it to all go away and let him do his thing."
His thing is running the ball, not his mouth.
McNeill said he and his teammates have witnessed Martinez's explosiveness since last year, when Martinez was on the scout team. The fans got their first glimpse of Martinez in the spring game, which put him in position to make a bid for the job in preseason practice.
"A lot of time people get hyped up during camp or spring ball, and you never really know what you're going to get," McNeill said. "But we all knew, that kid can flat out run. I knew he was going to run the ball well, but I was just impressed with the clock management and the play calls."
Though his team is a four-touchdown favorite against Idaho, coach Bo Pelini said the Vandals present a bigger challenge than the Hilltoppers did.
The Vandals had the nation's second-best turnaround last year, going from 2-10 in 2008 to 8-5. NFL prospect Nathan Enderle, a North Platte, Neb., native, returns to his home state after passing for 333 yards and two TDs against North Dakota.
Idaho coach Robb Akey said his players should soak up the Memorial Stadium atmosphere and the 85,000-strong "Sea of Red." But he said the Vandals won't just show up just to collect their $800,000 guarantee.
"Nobody is going to pick us to win this game," he said, "so there's no way we can go in there and screw it up. I believe this: If we play as fast as we can, as hard as we can and as long as we can, and if we execute things better, we give ourselves some opportunities. We'll see what that will do when we read the scoreboard at the end of the ball game."