NOTEBOOK: Rainey’s career night leaves mark on Nebraska defense

Junior running back Bobby Rainey rushes for a WKU first down during the second half of the Toppers’ 49-10 loss to Nebraska at Memorial Stadium. Rainey finished with 155 yards on 30 carries.

Zach Greenwell

LINCOLN, Neb. — If No. 8 Nebraska left Memorial Stadium knowing one new name Saturday, it was Bobby Rainey.

Rainey carved up the Huskers’ defense for 155 yards on 30 carries — both career highs — although WKU accomplished little else on offense.

“I told him he’s going to have a lot of games like that,” Head Coach Willie Taggart said. “Not just Bobby, but our offensive line. Showing them what we did against Nebraska gives them a little bit of confidence against whoever we play. That was a really good defense and … we were able to go out and run the ball successfully on them.”

Rainey also added 36 receiving yards on three receptions, giving the Nebraska defense some fits.

“We were sloppy,” Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini said. “We didn’t make calls. We didn’t get lined up. We didn’t play well. I can’t say one thing that I liked on the defensive side.”

The only chink in Rainey’s sterling effort was a fumble at the end zone in the third quarter, which negated a 46-yard run that would have brought the Toppers within 28-10.

“Bobby’s our guy,” Taggart said. “Bobby’s one of those guys on the field who feels like no one can stop him, and that’s what you love about the kid. Hopefully that’s his last fumble.”

Fumbles, dropped passes and penalties plagued the Toppers all last season, but Rainey said his one slip-up wasn’t respresentative of WKU’s mindset as a whole.

“We’re a totally different team (than last year),” Rainey said. “The outcome didn’t show it, but we’ve just got to eliminate the mistakes that we made. We’re nothing like last year, and the future will show it.”

Taggart soaks in debut

With all of the ceremony and excitement for the first game of the year, many forgot that Saturday’s game was the first as a head coach for Taggart.

Although Taggart was calm and collected throughout game week, he said he found himself a little overwhelmed before taking the field.

“It was surreal,” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t know what to do. I was asking myself what the head coach is supposed to do. I just ran out with the guys and said, ‘Let’s go have some fun. That’s what I’m going to do as a head coach — just go have some fun.’

“Before I gave the team our pregame speech, I had to take a minute and breathe a little bit. But to be honest, it was like another football game for me. I was calling some plays and making some decisions — a whole lot more decisions than I made before.”

Rainey said it was hard to be too down after the game because of Taggart’s demeanor. Losses will always sting, but Taggart’s optimism — much like it’s been since he was hired — is contagious, Rainey said.

“Today, he was positive about everything, and that’s how you’ve got to be when you play a team like this,” Rainey said. “You can’t be down. If he’s down, that’s not going to look good for us. We’ve got his back.”

QB trio burns Tops

After weeks of speculation over who would start at quarterback for Nebraska, redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez announced his presence with a 46-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“It was impressive,” Nebraska sophomore running back Rex Burkhead said. “You got to see his speed and how he can get downfield in a hurry. He did a great job of making quick decisions and getting the offense in a routine.”

Although Martinez got the start, sophomore Cody Green entered the game in the second quarter, and senior Zac Lee got some mop-up duty with the game in hand in the fourth.

Green finished 5-of-6 for 66 yards and a touchdown, while Lee completed 3-of-4 passes.

“We have three quarterbacks who are similar athletes,” Pelini said. “They can all run. They can all throw. They can all manage the team. It’s a good situation.”

And it was a situation that burnt WKU at times.

But despite the fact that each of the three quarterbacks had a successful night, Taggart said the Toppers’ bad habits were their own worst enemy.

“If we just tackle better,”Taggart said, “that score’s a lot different.”