Taylor Martinez's left foot is healthier than it's been in a month as the Husker quarterback began practicing again Sunday in an attempt to play at Minnesota.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Martinez practiced in pads and ran some of the Huskers' offense. Martinez has missed three games and five weeks of practice with a turf toe injury on his left foot.
“I thought he had a good day,” Pelini said. “We didn't give him a lot of reps. We'll see how it goes as the week goes on and he stresses (the toe) and see where he is. ... He's got some rust in some areas that he's got to get cleaned up. It's going to be getting back footwork-wise and how he feels comfortable doing all of the different movements.”
Pelini said Martinez has to feel comfortable “putting his foot in the ground.” He did not rule out Tommy Armstrong or Ron Kellogg playing even if Martinez can start Saturday against the Gophers.
“A lot of 'ifs,' ” Pelini said. “We'll see how it goes.”
Martinez is slated to talk after Tuesday's practice.
Wide receiver Kenny Bell said he's “very optimistic” Martinez will play Saturday. And Bell, who's caught passes from Martinez for three years, would be excited to see Martinez return.
“Taylor knows how I play a little bit better, and I know how Taylor plays, just because it's been three years. Some reads and route-running makes a big difference. Athleticism — how fast he is — makes a big difference, too,” Bell said.
Said offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles: “Hats off to Ronnie and Tommy — they've done a fantastic job in these last few weeks stepping in and really leading us to being perfect under them, but I think everyone knows that Taylor's our guy and that he's been our guy for four years now. He's proven himself.”
Armstrong said Martinez has “earned the right” to return to the starting role.
“Yeah, I'm the future of being the quarterback here in the next couple years,” Armstrong said, “but you gotta understand that this guy's been here four, five years, and he's done a lot.”
Pelini said Armstrong, who threw three interceptions in a 44-7 win over Purdue, learned a lot from that experience. Armstrong agreed. In hindsight, he said, he put too much of the mistakes and the burden of running the offense against a revamped Boilermaker defense on himself.
Huskers at home on the road
The disadvantage typically associated with playing on the road has not applied lately for Nebraska.
There were an estimated 15,000 Husker fans at Purdue two weeks ago, accounting for about half the crowd. The stands were split evenly at Northwestern last year, and Nebraska was particularly well represented at UCLA, too.
It's expected to be a similar scene at Minnesota on Saturday.
Bo Pelini said the NU players and coaches are certainly appreciative. And lucky, actually. Maybe even spoiled.
“You're pulling into the opposing stadium and you see Nebraska red everywhere and the 'N' everywhere, it's always a good feeling,” Pelini said. “Believe me, our guys recognize it. They understand that.”
Bell joked Monday that he hasn't played in a true road game his entire career.
“It's nice,” Bell said of Nebraska's fan support on the road. “It makes you feel like you're at home when your crowd is just as loud as the hometown's crowd.”
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Video: Bo Pelini
Video: Kenny Bell
Video: Tommy Armstrong
Video: Jeremiah Sirles
Video: Andrew Green