I'm sure most fans left Memorial Stadium buzzing about Taylor Martinez, but for my money, Brandon Kinnie's touchdown catch was the play of the day today. Only catch of the day, mind you...but it was the play of the day in my book. On third and 16, Martinez connected with Kinnie for a first down ... and then some. Rickey Thenarse, Alfonzo Dennard, and Austin Cassidy each tried to wrap up Kinnie, but Kinnie made like the Energizer Bunny and kept going all the way into the end zone. It's a play that makes you say "wow!"...but was it "wow bad" for the defense or "wow good" for Kinnie. My initial take is "wow good" for Kinnie, who came on strong late last season.
Martinez sure got my attention early on with some nifty scrambles, with speed and elusiveness creating running room where little existed. But some of his decision making on throws left much to be desired. Several passes were thrown into coverage and tipped up. One was intercepted by Thenarse, another was a reception by Austin Jones. All in all, not a bad debut for Martinez. His passing game is something that can be worked on; his God-given physical talent is definitely intriguing going into this next season. Cody Green showed better poise on the field today, and a powerful arm. He connected deep with Niles Paul (underthrowing it like Zac Lee did late last season, which makes me wonder if Paul has a little extra burst than his quarterbacks realize) and Will Henry (who seems to be finally shaking off Bill Callahan's playbook). I'm not sure either quarterback jumped ahead of Zac Lee today, but obviously the experience helps them.
Another star of the day in my eye was Rex Burkhead, who repeatedly broke tackles and gained positive yardage. But as the second quarter came to an end, the top players went to the sidelines and in came the reserves. Kyler Reed made some nice catches, and K.C. Hyland saved LaTravis Washington's bacon a couple of times with some reaches. The Huskers could have used him against Texas Tech last season.
I admit I didn't notice much about the defense today; my only excuse was explaining things to my three-year old daughter and making sure she was having a good time. My initial take is that Bo Pelini probably won't be terribly pleased with the performance of the defense, but he also kept things pretty generic and didn't put his defenders into the best positions.
All in all, it was a wonderful day. Ndamukong Suh awed the crowd once again by announcing a $2 million donation to the athletic department before even being drafted by the NFL. (That Nike endorsement deal must have been pretty good.) Oh, and $600 thousand to UNL to endow a scholarship on top of that. Nice. It'll be quite a day when #93 goes up on the North end zone skyboxes, and it's only a matter of time before #93 is officially retired.
Great to see so many former Huskers on the sidelines interacting with the fans. I saw Maurice Purify sign autograph after autograph before halftime. Carl Nicks was working the crowd as well, and I even spotted former Husker assistant George Darlington on the field as well.
Biggest downer of the day was watching former Husker announcer Adrian Fiala making his way to the stadium. After fifteen years of announcing Husker games, it had to be difficult for him to head to the stadium knowing he wasn't going to be part of the broadcast, and it showed in his eyes. Glad to see him introduced and acknowledged on the field.