It was a rough day for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, but a great one for his players, who needed to get well after last week's loss at UCLA.
Pelini had to be checked out by the team doctor in the first half and remained in the locker room after halftime because of flu-like symptoms. Defensive coordinator John Papuchis took over the head-coaching duties in the third quarter.
Pelini didn't have to fret much about his team, which cruised to a 42-13 win against Arkansas State after claiming a 28-3 halftime lead. Despite missing top back Rex Burkhead (knee) for the second straight game, Nebraska had more than enough offensive firepower to overwhelm the Red Wolves.
I-back Ameer Abdullah (167 rush yards, 2 TDs) and wide receiver Kenny Bell (two TDs, 71 receiving yards) both had huge days, while quarterback Taylor Martinez completed his first eight pass attempts and finished 13-of-14 passing for 180 yards and two touchdowns, adding 52 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Martinez's lone blunder came in the third quarter, when he was sacked and fumbled, and Arkansas State recovered for a touchdown.
While the offensive fireworks were nice, Nebraska really needed its defense to step up after allowing 653 yards to UCLA. The Huskers allowed yards and first downs (17) but made plays when it mattered and received contributions from several defensive backs, including P.J. Smith, Ciante Evans and Daimion Stafford. Nebraska had high hopes for its secondary despite the loss of All-Big Ten cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
Saturday's effort is a step in the right direction as Big Ten play gets closer.
Check the blog later for updates on Pelini's health. Hoping the coach makes a speedy recovery.