Nebraska sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez was present at practice Wednesday morning and wearing full pads, but his participation level and, more importantly, his availability for Saturday’s game at Minnesota remain in question.
Martinez, a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder, suffered an apparent left knee injury late in the third quarter and did not return. On Wednesday, he had no protective brace or sleeve on his left leg.
“He’s been out there and we’ll just have to see where it leads us as we move through to Saturday,” quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said Wednesday, without detailing Martinez’s workload.
Verduzco, not surprisingly, is confident in sophomore Noah Vedral if Martinez cannot play.
“He’s pretty cool and collected, he knows what he’s doing,” Verduzco said. “I feel pretty comfortable with him and he’s going to have to perform at a high level this Saturday if he happens to be playing.”
Added offensive line coach Greg Austin: “Supreme confidence. Supreme confidence. As much confidence in Noah as anybody. I think that he can run this offense well, and I'm excited about watching him go out there and compete. He's the ultimate competitor. He's one of my favorite guys on the team.”
Verduzco said, too, that the staff is comfortable with Martinez playing — assuming he’s healthy enough — even if his practice week is limited.
“Because a young guy like him has played as much football as he has, as young as he is, it doesn’t create as much of a factor for you,” he said. “If it was a young guy who, let’s say, hadn’t played before or the experience level was lower, you might be a little concerned.
“But I wouldn’t be concerned about that at all in any way, shape or form.”
Spielman in pads, "limited": Junior wide receiver JD Spielman was in pads on Wednesday after practice, though it’s unclear exactly how much work he did.
Offensive coordinator Troy Walters was not asked specifically about Spielman’s status, but Walters did at one point refer to the standout as “limited.”
“Some of the other receivers realize, ‘Hey, this might be my opportunity,’” Walters said.
"This week a lot of receivers got reps," Walters added. "Darien Chase got reps, Jaron Woodyard got a bunch of reps with the ones. Mike (Williams) is still getting reps. Kade Warner seems like he's healthy, so he's getting reps, so all hands on deck. We’ve got to play guys that are healthy and those guys have had good practices, so we'll go with whoever is healthy."
Weather worries? Suffice it to say, Walters isn’t too worried about an iffy, cold forecast for Saturday night in Minneapolis.
The National Weather Service is currently calling for a Saturday high temperature of 39 degrees in Minneapolis, with winds gusting to 35 mph and potential rain and/or snow showers.
How much have the Huskers worked to account for the weather in practice?
“None,” Walters said. “We told them on Monday that it’s going to be cold and possibly snowing. It’s a mindset and to get ready for that. If anything else changes, if it’s better conditions, then we’re good to go. We’re prepping for a cold day, a snowy day, a tough day. We’re not going to make any excuses.
“We went outside, but it’s been fairly nice here in Lincoln, so there’s not much you can do. I think today they’re going to get in the cold tub for 15-20 minutes to simulate cold, but our guys are tough.”
Sleeveless in Minneapolis: One thing you won’t see from Nebraska running backs Saturday night is sleeves on their arms.
“We’re not allowed to wear sleeves,” running backs coach Ryan Held said. “I don’t care if it’s 46 below zero, you don’t wear sleeves because you can’t feel the football.”
Regardless of temperature, “It’s a mindset,” Held said of going sleeveless. “This is football. You can’t play in warm weather every week. In this league, you’ve got to be able to play in all kinds of weather. … It shouldn’t be a factor. We should be ready to go. If it’s 35-mph winds and snow, let’s go, like little league football in the backyard on Thanksgiving after you ate half a turkey and all that, and it was gluttony when you were out there.”
Surprise! McCaffrey’s on the field: Mario Verduzco said it was walk-on junior quarterback Andrew Bunch who first raised the question on the sideline about who would go in the game if Vedral’s helmet popped off — Bunch or freshman Luke McCaffrey?
Lo and behold, it happened almost immediately after.
“Oh, man, that was wild,” Verduzco said. “Me and ‘Bunchy’ were talking and he had asked the question, so I got on the phone to Coach Frost and said, ‘Frosty, what do you want to do?’ He let me know, so that happened. And then the play is going on and my eyeballs are somewhere else, not on (Vedral) and the next thing I know, he’s jogging off the field.”
McCaffrey was already on the field getting the play signal.
“I must have breathed it into existence or something,” Verduzco said.
McCaffrey carried for 3 yards on his only snap.
“When I talked to him on the phone, he said he was hoping they would call a pass play so he could scramble around for about 80 yards,” Verduzco said. “That’s Luke.”
McCaffrey can play in up to three more games and still retain his redshirt.
— Chris Basnett and Parker Gabriel