Nebraska football fans were departing from Memorial Stadium after Saturday’s 37-34 win over Wyoming in a state of disbelief. Again with the 600 yards of offense allowed? And where is this super-powered offense we’ve been promised?
Many questions remain to be answered, but what should not get lost in the shuffle is that the offense in general, and quarterback Taylor Martinez in particular, put up some pretty decent numbers against the Cowboys. Martinez had 16 carries for 80 yards and was 17-of-22 for 155 yards passing with three touchdowns.
You’ve had enough doom and gloom over Nebraska’s “win” over Wyoming on Saturday. So here are a few silver linings from Martinez’s performance.
He’s Getting the Tempo Right
There’s a legitimate debate as to whether Nebraska’s new high-speed tempo makes sense. Two false-start penalties likely had something to do with the frenetic pace Nebraska’s offense was trying to reach, and it did seem at times like the offense was rushed and off-base when snapping the ball.
But snap the ball it did, and fast.
It was the norm, when Nebraska was in hurry-up mode, to snap the ball with more than 20 seconds on the play clock. Frequently, there were more than 25 seconds left. When things were moving well, there were 28 seconds left.
And much of that is down to Martinez knowing and being comfortable in that hurry-up mode.
Fans may question whether the hurry-up is a more haste, less speed issue, but there is no doubt that Nebraska is intending to use that high tempo this year on offense. And, at least for the first game, Martinez looked ready to run it.
He’s Being a Leader
Remember when Martinez was a freshman and wasn’t addressing the media at all? Remember when we all perceived him as an outsider, not well liked or respected by his teammates?
Apparently those days are over.
Martinez has been named a team captain, and after NU’s shaky win against Wyoming on Saturday he stepped up and called his teammates out.
“We let them back into the game, and that shouldn't happen,” Martinez said, quoted by Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald. “Great teams don't let that happen.”
That quote checks all the leadership boxes you want to hear from a quarterback. Accepting responsibility? Check. Publicly calling out the performance of the team as insufficient? Check. Calling on the team as a whole to do better? Check.
In the midst of the “is he transferring?” debacle after the 2010 Texas A&M game, it would have been hard to imagine Martinez as a team leader. But there he is, in his first game of his senior season and after a game that was a loss everywhere but on the scoreboard, standing up and doing his job as a leader.
He’s Not Turning the Ball over as Much
Okay, hear me out on this one. Yes, I know that Martinez had two turnovers, which were crucial in spurring the Cowboys’ late-game heroics.
But there are turnovers, and there are turnovers, and the two against Wyoming were far from “typical” Martinez turnovers.
For the interception, it looked to me like the receiver broke in a different direction than where the ball went just before Martinez threw. Sure, that could be on Martinez not knowing the route. But my money is on the receiver in that circumstance running the wrong route, which makes for an easy pick.
For the fumble, I would lay much more blame on Beck than on Martinez. It’s late in the game, it's 4th-and-1, and you have a stable of I-backs who have been terrorizing Wyoming’s defense. And you decide to let your fumble-prone quarterback—nursing what was clearly an injured shoulder—try to get that crucial yard?
Yes, Martinez deserves criticism for his ball security, but at some point he has to be put in positions to succeed.
I know it’s a stretch, and I know that Martinez got away with a near-pick as Nebraska was going in to score in the first half that could have shifted momentum. But he also went three quarters and change without turning the ball over. Sad as it may be to acknowledge, for Martinez, that’s progress.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge