Passing Fancy: It's Early, But Not Too Early for QBs to Have Exciting Starts

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Maryland show big promise at QB. Nebraska and Michigan know they need to figure that out.

It’s hardly time to panic. Or celebrate.

Week 2 is still Week 2. But it’s an axiom of coach-speak that you’re never staying the same; you’re either moving forward or backward.

Another axiom: It’s always about the quarterback.

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Maryland, for example, have kicked butt in their first two games. And their quarterbacks have all had big days.

By the numbers. . .

Justin Fields, Oho State: 458 yards, 76 percent completions, 6 TDs, no picks, 192.5 rating.

Jack Coan, Wisconsin: 564 yards, 76.3 percent, 5 TDs, 0 picks, 184.5 rating.

Josh Jackson, Maryland: 541 yards, 58.1 percent, 7 TDs, 1 picks, 165.4 rating.

This is not a surprise for Fields, a high-profile transfer from Georgia, who has delivered on the pressure to produce in his first steps in Columbus.

It is a mild surprise for Coan, who underwhelmed in his first college action last fall and had to hold off standout true freshman Graham Mertz in fall camp. If Coan can keep it up, Wisconsin, which features Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor at running back, will have balance that's rare for the Badger program.

What’s shocking about Jackson, who had started at Virginia Tech before transferring Maryland, are not merely his numbers. It’s the dominant offense he has led in a 63-20 whomping of No. 21 Syracuse and a 79-0 breeze past Howard.

In contrast, Nebraska and Michigan are off to relatively shaky starts, considering the lofty expectations for those two historic programs this fall.

By the numbers. . .

Adrian Martinez, Nebraska: 468 yards, 60.4 percent completions, 2 TDs, 2 picks, eight sacks, 147.7 rating.

Shea Patterson, Michigan, 410 yards, 62.1 percent, 3 TDs, 0 picks, 138.5 rating.

Michigan and Nebraska took very different paths on Saturday. But neither moved forward in the way we might have expected.

In their 24-21 overtime escape against Army, the Wolverines sidestepped disaster when the Black Knights missed a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.

Army, which took Oklahoma to overtime a year ago, has a way of using its triple-option offense to offset superior talent. Don’t want to read too much into looking ugly against Army, considering that the Sooners went on to the College Football Playoff.

Then again, Michigan didn’t look like a juggernaut in its opening win vs. Middle Tennessee, either.

We still need to see if Patterson can become more of a force. Maybe they need to run more RPO (run-pass-option) for him, an expectation that has not materialized. Doesn’t matter if it’s him or coaches who aren’t game-planning to give him the best chance to be successful.

The Wolverines need to clean up their act before they take it on the road a week from Saturday at surging Wisconsin, which has beaten South Florida and Central Michigan by a combined 110-0.

That ought to be one heck of a battle.

Meanwhile, Nebraska seemed to be in line for high praise when it led 17-0 at halftime at Colorado. There wasn’t a lot of elbow room on the Scott Frost bandwagon.

Then came that fourth-quarter meltdown, which saw the Black Shirts give up 24 points, and Nebraska went on to to lose 34-31 in overtime.

What would have been another sign that Frost is The Real Deal turned into a gloomy disappointment.

Not the end of the world. But the Cornhuskers need to cut down their offensive mistakes and tighten up their defense.

Predictions that they would win the Big Ten West are looking premature. With their favorable home schedule, the Huskers can still accomplish that goal. But they have work to do.

Martinez, who was being touted as a Heisman candidate coming off his splashy freshman debut last fall, will be a big key. With his exceptionally quick feet, look for him to improve on his modest rushing stats: 36 yards per game. 2.3 rushing yards per carry.

``You’ve got to make things happen,’’ Martinez said after Nebraska’s second-half meltdown at Colorado. ``I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for anything. And that’s on me. Whether the snap was frickin’ 5,000 feet over my head, I don’t care. There’s no excuses. I think that’s an important thing for this team to know and a lesson to myself. Regardless of where the snap is, who gives a shit? I’ve gotta be able to make the play.’’

Spoken like a man who knows it’s always about the quarterback.

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