By Chadd Cripe
Boise State sophomore Doug Martin is eager for the opportunity that comes his way this week — but also conflicted about how it happened.
Martin, who moved to nickel in the spring, will return to offense to take D.J. Harper’s spot in the two-man tailback rotation. Harper, who was part of the same recruiting class as Martin, likely will miss the entire season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“It’s unfortunate for D.J. — D.J.’s my boy,” Martin said. “I love him to death. I’ve just got to carry the flag. We always talk about carrying the flag and that’s what I’ve got to do from now on.
“… I’m excited. (Running the ball) is what I came here to do. I’m kind of anxious to see what happens.”
Teammates and coaches have raved about Martin since he arrived in 2007. He’s a fast, physical player who dominates opponents on special teams.
For all the talk, though, he has yet to play a marquee role on offense or defense. That will change Saturday at Bowling Green.
He should top his career high of six carries in that game. He also could get some playing time on defense, where he was the backup to nickel Winston Venable.
“I’ve probably got to get the cobwebs out during practice, get some more reps in the pass (protection),” said Martin, who has spent less than 10 minutes per day with the offense this year to make sure he was ready for just this scenario. “That’s going to be my biggest challenge right now — getting the pass pro down, getting a feel for running plays.”
Martin had a limited selection of plays in his repertoire in the first three games. He carried six times against Miami (Ohio), mostly late, and has nine carries for 35 yards and two touchdowns this season.
He never had more than five carries last season when he was part of a four-man tailback rotation.
He showed his talent for running with the ball last week, though, on a 77-yard kickoff return. He broke at least a couple tackles on that run.
“I’m more of like a power back,” he said. “I probably like to move guys, like to put my shoulder down more than others do.”
Bowling Green enters the game with the national leader in receptions. Senior Freddie Barnes has 42 grabs, including a school-record 17 last week against Marshall.
Barnes made six catches for 46 yards, ran six times for 15 yards and was 1-of-2 passing for 4 yards and a touchdown last year at Boise State. The Broncos won 20-7.
“He’s a relentless player,” Boise State safety Jeron Johnson said. “All game, he was coming after us. … He’s their playmaker. We’re going to have to game plan for him.”
Boise State, ranked No. 8, will be the first Top 10 team to play the Falcons at Doyt Perry Stadium. The Falcons are 3-4 against ranked teams since 2003, including three losses against top-four teams.