Conditioning Could Be Pivotal to Husker-Spartan Showdown
Some members of the media don't always cater to Taylor Martinez's short answers at weekly press conferences, but Nebraska's sophomore quarterback is honest, quick to the point and doesn't mince words. And, when it comes right down to it, don't most answers depend on asking the right questions? I mean, Martinez was asked 18 questions Monday before one yielded something that I believe has a meaningful impact on No. 13 Nebraska's nationally televised showdown Saturday against No. 9 Michigan State on ESPN.
Asked if he's noticed defenses getting tired later in the games, Martinez said: "I think in the Ohio State game their defense got a little tired. I think that's a key factor for us ... our conditioning aspect. I think early on in the game, they might be really amped up, but later on in the game, they might get tired. That's really good for us." Why? Because the Huskers have a no-huddle offense, and the only way to run it requires superb conditioning. "We'd run pretty much every day in practice," Martinez said, adding that the Huskers would even run on Sundays "so we're pretty used to it."
Rex Burkhead, Nebraska's steadiest offensive threat on a 6-1 team, ranks fourth in the Big Ten Conference and No. 17 nationally in rushing yards per game (107.4), while Martinez ranks sixth in the Big Ten and No. 41 nationally (90.9 yards per game). Burkhead apparently agrees with Martinez that conditioning could be a Nebraska edge in a game that's pivotal to which team might represent the Legends Division in the first-ever Big Ten Conference Championship game Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Asked why Nebraska's offensive line seems to get better in the fourth quarter, Burkhead said: "Depth and conditioning. I would say. I think we rotate them in and out a good amount. The younger guys are definitely coming along. I've seen their improvement throughout the year. We have a high tempo in practice, so I think that definitely helps." Burkhead, of course, seems to get better as the game wears on and somehow, he manages to get stronger, shiftier and infinitely more difficult to tackle.
Credit an obsessive embrace of Nebraska's strength and conditioning program, not to mention being an addicted ambassador to the Huskers' nationally prominent nutrition program, for Burkhead's fourth-quarter strength and power game. Asked if 50 yards rushing in the fourth quarter means more to him than 50 yards rushing in the first quarter, Burkhead said: "Absolutely. That's a critical point in the game. Whenever you can close out a game at the end, that is definitely going to mean more to the team."
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