Taylor shows Huskers he can run a little bit, too

Friday, October 21st 2005, 8:48 am
By: News On 6

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ No one would confuse the running of Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor with that of Missouri's Brad Smith.

With his 4.98-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Taylor doesn't earn many style points. In fact, he says other quarterbacks on the team make fun of him for the way he lumbers around.

But Taylor has been surprisingly efficient when he's forced, or chooses, to make yards with his feet instead of his arm.

``To be honest, this is the first year I've ever really run the ball,'' Taylor said. ``In previous years I've probably run one time a year. Usually, when I did, I had no idea what I was doing, so I probably looked goofy.''

Taylor, a Norman native who transferred last winter from Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kan., was brought in because his passing ability made him a good match for the Cornhuskers' offensive system. His ability to make something out of nothing when pass protection breaks down has been a bonus.

Taylor has had at least one running attempt gain 10 yards or more in each of the last four games. He ran five times for 30 yards in last week's 23-14 win at Baylor.

``He knows what he's doing,'' coach Bill Callahan said. ``I just want to make sure he protects himself. He has a pretty good feel for where the first-down marker is, so if he does extend forward and he does go head first and decides to 'Pete Rose' it, I'm all right with that.''

The Cornhuskers on Saturday will play against one of the premier running quarterbacks in NCAA history in Smith. Smith has run 108 times, almost twice as much as the next closest rusher on his team, for 619 yards and six touchdowns.

Take away the 11 times Taylor has been sacked _ those are counted as rushing attempts _ and he has run 16 times for 81 yards and one TD.

Taylor said he has become more comfortable taking off when protection folds.

``I think in the beginning of the season I was sitting in the pocket too long and just taking sacks when I could have gotten a yard or two extra,'' he said. ``Now I think I just see it better. I can tell now when linebackers who would normally have their eyes on me are watching guys across the field, so it gives me a good opportunity to pick up seven or eight yards on a run.''

Callahan said he's glad to see Taylor freelance at times.

But other than occasions when a play is meant to have a moving pocket, don't look for Taylor to have running plays designed for him.

``You watch all these other quarterbacks around the country, and they're running counter plays up inside like tailbacks with this spread system,'' Callahan said. ``So for a little scramble where he ducks and dives and nips and tucks a little bit, that's OK. But we're not going to feature him on any quarterback draws or any counter plays or anything like that.''