David Gilbert talked a little trash about Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, and Bret Bielema didn’t really care for it. Now Bielema has announced that Gilbert will be benched for the start of Saturday’s prime time game in Lincoln. Tyler Dippel and Konrad Zagzebski will be the starters at defensive end.
Gilbert’s comments about Martinez were not hugely offensive unless you’re an oversensitive Cornhusker fan. The defensive end somewhat disparaged Martinez’s throwing ability, saying “It still looks like he’s skipping rocks out there to me.” Martinez had a tough game last year against the Badgers, and overall has been much more dangerous as a runner than a passer in his career, but this year his passing has improved and that all-run/no-throw stigma is beginning to wear off. Except in the mind of David Gilbert, evidently.
In explaining his decision to sit Gilbert for the start of the game Bielema said, “I want to make him understand that. That’s just not who we are and what we are.” The coach added, “He’ll be skipping rocks on the sideline with me, for the first play.”
Like I said, despite what Gilbert may think, Martinez is a more dangerous passer this year than last. Nevertheless, the Badgers still need to be aware of him as a runner. Keeping contain on the edges will be paramount, and that’s where the defensive ends become huge. Obviously that position has been a problem for the Badgers. Gilbert has played very well the last couple games, but he was injured against UTEP and there were concerns about him even being able to play against Nebraska. There were also concerns about Tyler Dippel who was leg-whipped late in the UTEP game and had to come out.
But at least it appears Gilbert and Dippel will be healthy. Gilbert won’t start as a result of Bielema’s disciplinary move but he won’t be held out long. The depth behind those two guys is where things get scary. Brendan Kelly and Pat Muldoon have both officially been ruled out. So right now inexperienced redshirt sophomore Zagzebski is their #3 defensive end. Chris Borland has been lining up at DE in pass rush situations but it’s not the clear passing downs we’re concerned about. I imagine Borland will be spying Martinez at least some of the time.
Whatever the Badgers decide to do scheme-wise, this will be by far their biggest defensive challenge of the season to date. The Huskers currently lead the Big 10 in total yards, scoring, rushing yards, pass efficiency, first downs and 20-yard-plus plays. Martinez has been doing anything but skipping rocks.
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