After starting slow at Husky Stadium, the Washington Huskies kicked it into high-gear and dismantled the Syracuse Orange down the stretch on Saturday. Jermaine Kearse hauled-in three Jake Locker passes for touchdowns and led all receivers with 197 yards on nine catches. Kearse was rewarded with the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week award for his performance.
Locker put in a strong performance -- perhaps getting his Heisman campaign back on-track -- against the Orange, completing 66% of his passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Polk broke the 100 yard mark, rushing for 117 yards on 20 carries. The Husky defense also forced two turnovers Saturday, intercepting Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib once and recovering a Prince-Tyson Gulley fumble. All-around, it was a solid performance against an over-matched team.
The Huskies now turn their attention to the Nebraska Cornhuskers' and their vaunted defense. The Huskers shut down Idaho last week, returning two Nathan Enderle interceptions for touchdowns in the first half en route to a 38-17 victory. While the defense played as expected, SB Nation blog Corn Nation found reasons to worry about the Huskers easy win over the Vandals.
The Huskers weren't without their problems, however. While they had six takeaways, they also had eight fumbles (four by Martinez, two by Niles Paul, and one each by Dontraveous Robinson and Cody Green), three of which were lost. Penalties continue to be a problem as Nebraska picked up 10 for 123 yards. While the fumbles can be somewhat attributed to Martinez' youth, the penalties are a lack of discipline.
Side note: Corn Nation did a fantastic job on their series about college football officiating. This piece on some of the most controversial calls a referee makes in the course of the game is a must-read for any college football fan.
The Huskers are lead by freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez. The young quarterback brings a dimension last year's starter -- Zac Lee -- couldn't bring effectively; the ability to run as well as pass. Washington will need to keep a close-eye on Martinez and play a disciplined style of defense to shut down the resurgent Nebraska offense.
Martinez has three things going for him running the zone read. First, his ball fakes are incredible. Remember Martinez' 67-yard touchdown run that Husker Mike mentioned in his report card - you thought Helu had the ball, too, didn't you? Second, Martinez is decisive. This is key because it adds an extra step or two in the play's process. Third - as we've all seen, Martinez is explosive.
Nebraska comes in favored by six points and ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll this week. The Huskers will provide a tough early-season test for UW at home. A win, or competitive game, should provide the Huskies with momentum heading into the Pac-10 schedule. With a number of highly-touted recruits expected to be in attendance, Washington is also taking has added incentive to make a good impression and build on a 2011 recruiting class that's shaping up to be a great one.
Washington takes on Nebraska at Husky Stadium this Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
For more on the Huskies, check out SB Nation's UW Dawg Pound.