July 20, 2024

Nebraska’s offensive line swiftly becoming a liability

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Illinois defensive tackle Jer'Zhan Newton takes down Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez while offensive linemen Matt Sichterman (70) and Turner Corcoran (69) looks on Saturday August 28, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill — After the road loss last Saturday, there’s no denying the Huskers’ offensive line needs improvement.

The big boys up front struggled to block and snap the ball, which are issues that have plagued the team throughout Scott Frost’s tenure.

Illinois sacked quarterback Adrian Martinez five times, the most Nebraska has allowed since the loss to Colorado in 2019. It all has been a frustrating process for the players, coaches and fans. Center Cameron Jurgens knows something has to give with the unit’s learning curve.

However, the lingering problem is the fact that the offensive line has stayed stuck in neutral. Frost emphasized during the post game press conference that his offense had to adjust their game plan after falling behind three touchdowns. Jurgens was disappointed in his performance and the play of his fellow offensive linemen, because they failed to establish the run out of the gate.

“I thought early on we needed to find that run game a lot quicker, we went to the pass and wasn’t ready for it,” Jurgens said. “We need to get that running game going a lot faster.”

The Huskers were overwhelmed with the Fighting Illini’s pass rush, which led to additional mistakes. With under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Nebraska had the ball at Illinois’ 33-yard line when Jurgens pulled the unthinkable. He snapped the ball way over Martinez’ head, and Gabe Ervin Jr. had to dive on the pigskin.

The 14-yard loss was a tough play for Big Red Nation to watch. Jurgens has had a history of bad snaps in clutch moments. Negative plays like those are the ones that take all of the momentum out of a drive and stalls the offense. Not to mention the Huskers got mauled up front and couldn’t hold down the trenches.

Fans are quick to blame Martinez for the team’s struggles on offense, but everything operates through the offensive line. Being undisciplined and making the fundamental mistakes have kept the Huskers’ offensive linemen from getting out of their own way.

Now Jurgens is trying his best to change that narrative for the unit. The six-foot-three, 290-pounder is holding himself and his teammates accountable. It remains to be seen if the group can get through a game without making silly penalties.

Jurgens knows it all comes down to execution, but it’s mental just as much as it’s physical. He’s in his third season as Nebraska’s starting center and knows there’s a lot expected out of him. Practice will be intense throughout the week, with everyone in the group dialed in on getting better.

“We want to flip the script, we don’t want to have that happen over and over again,” he said. “We’re tired of it, we want to win some games.”

With Fordham visiting the Sea of Red this weekend, Frost will have plenty opportunities to get his younger blockers reps. The Huskers (0-1) need to establish depth up front, which will help as they navigate through the Big Ten gauntlet midway through the season.

The players aren’t going to let one mistake-filled game ruin their season. So it’s back to the drawing board for the Huskers and all work and no play the remainder of the year.

“We got fighters on this team,” the Nebraska native said. “The more you fight, the more effort you put in, then maybe the ball goes your way.”