Nebraska coach Scott Frost calls it a double wing run out of the I-formation. Whatever you call it, Nebraska found one thing that worked in Saturday’s loss to Ohio State.
With the Buckeyes holding a 14-0 lead, the Huskers began one of their better drives of the night. It began on their own 25. Seven running plays and one pass play later then were on the Ohio State 38.
But an Adrian Martinez pass was tipped into the air by a Nebraska receiver and intercepted by Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, who was laying flat on his back on the turf at the time.
But that drive reminded many of old-school Husker football. The running plays in the drive were pretty much right out of the Tom Osborne playbook from back in the 1990s when Frost was the quarterback.
Now it was Martinez under center and running the option play with Dedrick Mills playing the role of a fullback, something he did as a freshman with Georgia Tech in 2016 when he led the Yellow Jackets with 771 yards rushing.
“I think it is different,” Martinez said. “I think it is a little bit of a different read, but it is something that we practice and I think just being a dual-threat athletic quarterback, getting those reps and just working on it you get used to reacting in that way.”
Mills was also comfortable in the offense. He had three carries for 26 yards on the drive.
“I was very comfortable,” Mills said. “It was part of the offense I used to run at Georgia Tech, so it felt normal to me. I was happy to be running the ball the same way again.”
That’s the reason Frost added those option plays to the offense. Not only Mills could run it, but Martinez could handle it too.
“We have some personnel that I think can run it,” Frost said. “You can’t run that stuff unless you’ve been working on it. We’ve been working on it for a long time. Some of the things we’re running fit the defense that they gave us. I thought the guys went out and executed that well. We had a whole drive that we put together with that stuff.”
It was something different for Martinez, who had one run for eight yards on the drive, but it wasn’t completely unfamiliar.
“I did in middle school, whatever that is worth,” Martinez said. “I like it. But, I think it could be a real weapon for us moving forward, and we are going to continue to work on it and progress with it, and we will see where it goes in the coming future.”
You can expect to see more of it down the road, possibly even Saturday when Nebraska hosts Northwestern. Frost likes what he saw from the offense against Ohio State.
“I want that to be a piece of what we’re doing,” Frost said. “It’s part of what Nebraska has been built on and the fabric of what we are, what we need to get back to a little bit. We have the right personnel to do it. So, we’ll pick our spots but it certainly looked pretty good on the first time out.”
Mills will likely be a part of that offense. He’s improved his all-around play since the beginning of the season.
“Most definitely I’ve gotten way better,” Mills said. “My position coach, Coach (Ryan) Held, tells me after every game, you’re starting to get a good feel. After every game, every Sunday I come in for brunch. I see one of my position coaches there (he) says, ‘hey you’re starting to get a good feel for this,’ so I’ve been making the right cuts, the right moves.”
He also held onto the ball against Ohio State. Mills made it a point last week of holding onto the ball after he had three fumbles in four games. He carried a football with him all week as a reminder to hold it high and tight.
The Huskers didn’t have any fumbles against the Buckeyes.
“I tried hitting it away from him. I came up from behind in the players’ lounge and did all that stuff,” Martinez said. “Again, he takes it seriously. It means a lot to him and us as players notice that.”
Frost takes the I-formation seriously too. A reporter called it the flexbone at Monday’s press conference. Frost indicated he had a different name for it.
“I guess I would call it an I-formation,” Frost said. “Maybe I’m not an expert.”
But Frost is an expert on running the same plays he ran as quarterback for the Huskers back in the day, and Martinez said there’s nobody better to teach him the option offense.
“I don’t think there is a better guy to learn from than Coach Frost, a guy who did it a ton in college,” Martinez said. “I think he gets all the ins and outs of it.”