Quarterback Taylor Martinez's turf toe continues to get better, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said during his Monday press conference. The four-year starter, who has missed the last two games because of the injury to his left foot, remains “day to day” as NU begins preparation for Purdue.
Pelini's zeroed in on Martinez's need to accelerate on running plays as a final hurdle before he returns to the field.
“I think he can run full speed right now,” Pelini said. “But can he get to full speed in a hurry? No. That's the issue. He's having trouble planting, pushing off and getting to full speed. ... You gotta put that foot in the ground. And he's gotta have comfort and confidence he can do that.”
Martinez will likely travel with the team to Purdue even if he's ruled out, Pelini said. A bye week after the Purdue game will “play a part” in the coach's decision on whether to play or sit Martinez. But if Martinez is healthy, Pelini said he could play.
“I want to win this football game,” Pelini said. “We're not in a position where we can save anybody. You gotta do what you gotta do to win the game.”
In Martinez's absence, redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong has completed 71 percent of his passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns in wins over South Dakota State (59-20) and Illinois (39-19). Pelini said Armstrong continues to play well, but needs to work on “the details” of his play.
“He's got a lot to learn and every time he goes out there, he's going to learn more,” Pelini said. “He does a lot of things naturally. He's a guy who really understands offense — really understands how things work — but applying them during a game in situations, there's no question in my mind he's going to learn a lot from what happened on Saturday — both the good and the bad.”
Pelini pointed to a play that Armstrong turned to the wrong side despite having seen the sideline adjustment and making the correct check.
“It's being so excited that he goes a little quick,” Pelini said.
Pelini said Armstrong is prepared to play on the road, in part because of high school games he played in Texas. Armstrong played two Texas 5A state title games at Cowboys Stadium in front of roughly 40,000 fans, Armstrong said.
An ESPNU analyst suggested during the broadcast of Nebraska's 39-19 win over Illinois that Armstrong was reluctant to properly follow through on his throws because he was worried about his left knee, which he injured before training camp. Armstrong brushed off that notion Monday.
“I was throwing off my back foot because I was rushing,” Armstrong said. “It was just a misjudgment of the wind. You try to throw balls off your back leg and you don't get the nose down and you don't follow through, your balls rise. That happened to me a few times. It cost us big time on some plays. I gotta be prepared the right way ... my knee's fine. It wasn't anything that had to with my knee.”
LeRoy Alexander seeing more time at safety
Nebraska's search for answers at safety led the Huskers to redshirt freshman LeRoy Alexander on Saturday for his most extensive playing time yet.
Andrew Green started next to Corey Cooper, but moved to the dime position when NU went with six defensive backs. Alexander played safety in that alignment and enough the rest of the game to register three tackles and a fumble recovery.
Coach Bo Pelini said Alexander looked comfortable and communicated well, although Pelini added that he needed to “tackle better in some situations.”
“I thought he did a lot of good things,” Pelini said. “I like LeRoy. I think he's going to be a good player. Tackling is not really an area of concern for me with him. He's been a good tackler since he's been here.
“I think he'll be better because of a couple things that happened to him during that game.”
Alexander got his first chance after NU had previously tried Green and Harvey Jackson. NU still has Charles Jackson as an option, too.
“I think he did a good job for us in his time out there,” Cooper said.
Linebacker Rose didn't expect first college start
NU linebacker Michael Rose said he didn't necessarily see his busy Saturday coming.
Rose said Monday that he thought Zaire Anderson (bone bruise) was going to play against Illinois. The redshirt freshman weakside linebacker didn't expect to make his first career start.
But that didn't mean he treated it any differently through last week.
“You've just got to prepare like you're going to be in there the whole game,” he said. “That's the attitude that I took.”
Rose made a team-high 11 tackles, including five unassisted.
“I hadn't played in a full game since the Under Armor game a couple Januarys ago,” he said. “I was just excited to be out there.”
Pelini likes Osborne selection to playoff committee
Legendary Nebraska coach Tom Osborne is reportedly a member of college football's new playoff selection committee. And coach Bo Pelini's fine with that.
Pelini hopes that every member of the committee has a profile similar to that of Osborne, who Pelini said would put the necessarily time in to watch and evaluate lots of teams.
“People that understand the game, and have been around the game, and know football,” Pelini said, describing his criteria.
The committee will select the participants in next year's four-team tournament to determine the 2014 national champion. Not every potential candidate has Pelini's approval.
“I saw one name in particular that had me shaking my head,” Pelini said. “Hopefully when they put people in those positions, they're qualified to be in those positions.”
Pelini didn't mention anyone specifically. But of course, he was asked about Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State who's been rumored as a possible committee member.
“I don't want to get into that,” Pelini said. “I like Condoleezza Rice, though. She's the real deal.”
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Video: Nebraska Monday press conference