Three weeks and counting.
That's how long Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez has been on the sidelines, battling a bout of turf toe after playing in all three of the Huskers' first three games of the season.
Nebraska announced Thursday that the Huskers would again be without Martinez in Saturday's matchup with Purdue, but the real question that should be asked is does it matter?
Aside from Purdue being an opponent Nebraska should handle with ease — even on the road — the Husker offense has had absolutely no trouble with its leader out of action. Martinez has missed a 59-20 pounding of FCS foe South Dakota State and a significant 39-19 beat down of Illinois this past Saturday (two games that sandwiched a bye week).
The Huskers have passed 496 yards in Martinez's absence.
“Taylor is business as usual right now," head coach Bo Pelini said during his weekly press conference Monday, prior to the determination that Martinez would sit out. "I think he felt a lot better yesterday. I think it’s day-to-day. If he’s ready to play, he’ll play. We’re going to see how the next couple days play out. He’s progressing. He’s getting better. I know he’s itching to get back out there. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.
"He’s doing everything he can. He’s working. He’s in the training room. He’s doing everything he needs to do. You just have to see how it goes. I think he can run full speed right now, but can he get to full speed in a hurry? No. That’s the issue right now. He’s having trouble planting off that foot and pushing off and getting to full speed. He could ease into it but that’s just not how the game is played. You have to be able to put that foot in the ground, and he’s got to have comfort and confidence that he can do that.”
But what of those eye-popping numbers without Martinez on the field? Tommy Armstrong Jr., a freshman, has filled in admirably for the departed Martinez, throwing for a combined three touchdowns over the past two games he's started. But it's the running game that has carried the Huskers.
Nebraska scored five touchdowns on the ground against South Dakota State, three against the Fighting Illini. And, of course, Ameer Abdullah has led the way with rushing days of 139 and 225 yards.
“He has such a great attitude," Pelini said of Abdullah. "He really has great vision. I’m not comparing him to Barry Sanders. But the way he can put his foot in the ground and he’s going forward and next thing you know he’s going East-West and creating space. He does a really good job of creating space for himself. For a guy who’s not the biggest guy in the world, he’s got some power. Obviously he’s low to the ground so he’s hard to get your hands on. I just think he’s a really quality back. Obviously you have to have good vision, and I think our guys are blocking well for him.”
Add in the quality play of wide receivers Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa, and it's easy to see why Martinez can take his time returning to the field.
“It makes it a lot easier just because they are veterans in this offense and they know what to do," Armstrong said Monday. "Quincy and Kenny always tell me just stay focused and relax and just go make plays. There was a bunch of high balls where Kenny saved my behind on a few plays, and Quincy will tell me, 'Just get me the ball, and I’ll go catch it.' Just the fact that they can tell me that makes me comfortable.”
Nebraska has Purdue this week, another bye and then a date with Minnesota before the schedule gets significantly tougher, which gives Martinez ample time to heal all the way up.
But, why rush when the Husker offense is playing like this?