One of the most impressive displays of the young 2012 college football season was turned in by Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez in the ‘Huskers 49-20 rout of Southern Miss.
Martinez—known more for his exploits as a runner—went 26-of-34 for a career-high 354 yards and tied a career-best by throwing five touchdown passes and no interceptions.
The performance was impressive enough to place his name in the early season chatter as a contender for the Heisman Trophy.
While some may dismiss the effort as a fluke occurrence against a typical soft non-conference opponent in a season opener, it should be noted that the Golden Eagles are the defending Conference USA champions and posted an impressive 12-2 record in 2011.
The 6’1”, 200-pound junior spent nearly the entire game doing his damage from the pocket, evidenced by just six rushing attempts for 10 yards on the day.
To put his passing outburst in perspective, Martinez had only 13 touchdown tosses last season.
More importantly for Big Red fans, the offense looked as balanced and smooth as it ever has in the Bo Pelini era, racking up 632 yards of total offense.
Six Nebraska receivers recorded at least two catches while Martinez hit 10 different targets on the day.
With games coming up against UCLA, Arkansas State and Idaho State before the ‘Huskers start the Big Ten slate, Martinez has a chance to accumulate some eye-popping stats and a significant buzz if he can continue his progression as a passer.
An injury to star tailback Rex Burkhead—who left the game and did not return after the first quarter with a sprained knee ligament in his left knee—could put a heavier burden on Martinez going forward. (h/t Associated Press, via espn.com)
Coincidentally, Martinez turned his play up a notch after Burkhead left and the offense opened things up.
While critics around the nation may scoff at the mention of T-Magic and Heisman in the same sentence, Martinez has the look of a player that is finding his groove entering his third year as Nebraska’s starting quarterback.