On Friday, October 15, Taylor Martinez was on top of the world.
His Cornhuskers were undefeated heading into a massively-hyped tilt with Texas. Pundits around the country legitimately tossed his name around when discussing the Heisman Trophy. A conversation couldn’t be had about the fresh-faced Nebraska signal-caller without comparisons to the greatest quarterbacks to set up under center for the then-No. 4 Cornhuskers.
Fast forward into Saturday evening, and it’s an entirely different story. Martinez had two Longhorns making sure he was corralled on every play. His receivers seemingly had butter on their hands. Once things started to snowball, Martinez tried to force the issue until finally he was brought to the sidelines and told that he’d done all he could, but that senior backup Zac Lee was going to see this one through.
Pacing on the sidelines and not having anything else to do with the outcome of Nebraska’s 20-13 loss to the Texas Longhorns was nothing short of agonizing for T-Magic. You could see it on his face as he took a moment to stare out onto the field disappointed. Taylor Martinez is a smart young man and he no doubt realizes that he’s hit the first speed bump in a long career.
Martinez has just as much control over his career from here on out as he does when he calls a play. Even the greats that his name recently held company with, such as Eric Crouch, had difficulty when being defended by two fast, physical defenders during an entire game, after all.
Sure, he threw some clunkers that landed at his receivers' feet, but there were several occasions where he should have had potential touchdown passes. He also can’t be blamed for Roy Helu, Jr.’s fumble. Helu, Jr. had all four points of the ball where they needed to be before it was jarred loose.
The message for “Magic” is the same as it is for every other member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team: Win out and it can still be an excellent season. Unbelievably, even sitting at No. 16 in the initial BCS rankings, Nebraska has a chance at sneaking into the BCS National Championship game much like in 2001.
Oklahoma State provides an excellent opponent after the stifling Texas defense. While talented, the Cowboys' 11 that will be facing Nebraska aren’t quite up to snuff with the Longhorns. That isn’t taking anything away from OSU, but unlike Texas, they don’t have the sheer physical ability on defense to mask mistakes like the boys from Austin.
The key for Martinez is to do all that he can to make sure that his receivers have the opportunity to make the easiest catches that they can. After that, it’s on them to execute. If he can make proper reads and hand off crisply, again, his duty is complete.
One thing that he needs to keep in mind is that when he’s not on the field, there are 11 nasty Cornhusker defenders ready to feast on Oklahoma State’s passing game.
The Blackshirts will do their job for Martinez, and after Nebraska manages to score their first touchdown in this Saturday’s game, it will do wonders for the psyche of the entire Cornhusker offense, let alone their quarterback.
Martinez has been given the green light for his first, and likely last, trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma. So far this season, the road has seemingly been kinder to Nebraska than the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium. Will the country see a return of the T-Magic Show? That’s all up to him.
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