Adrian Martinez Is a 'Frickin' Nebraska Quarterback
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Adrian Martinez Is a ‘Frickin’ Nebraska Quarterback,’ As He Should Be

September 11, 2019

“He’s a frickin’ Nebraska quarterback, right?” 

That’s how Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco described Adrian Martinez after Wednesday’s practice.

After struggling in week one against South Alabama, Martinez bounced back against Colorado, particularly in the run game. Disregarding sacks, Martinez had 13 carries for 99 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which included him plowing right through a defender.

“And that’s what we want him to be like,” Verduzco continued. “He should be a version of No. 7, Coach Frost, really. That’s what we want, we want that and we’re encouraging him to be maybe a little bit more dynamic with that.”

Martinez was 9-for-9 through the air in the first half against the Buffaloes and finished 16-of-26 for 290 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was also sacked six times and lost two fumbles.

“He did a pretty good job,” Verduzco said. “He played pretty well except for the turnover, obviously; guy put his helmet right on the ball, those are going to happen. We were talking about the fact that in my career with my quarterbacks, I’ve experienced maybe handful of fumbles. I asked him if he had butter fingers. We’ve got to get it corrected.”

Martinez was a little more fired up than normal in the post-game press conference after the loss, though Verduzco hasn’t seen that same frustration seep into his quarterback’s preparation for week three.

“If anything, it was just a general reaction to the loss,” Verduczo said. “I think that probably has more to do with it than anything. We talk, always, after the games, and there was that tremendous sense of disappointment for him and me with regards to having that sense of we let the fans down and you guys down in that game. We take that pretty personally.”

It’s been business as usual for Martinez on the practice field, offering encouragement and critiques where necessary while not going over the top. He’s not much of a screamer unless the situation explicitly calls for it.

Against the Jaguars, Martinez completed just under 60% of his passes and was under consistent pressure, even though he only took two sacks. The offensive line offered plenty of protection in the first half against the Buffaloes but it degraded in the second half as all six sacks happened after halftime. Is Martinez seeing ghosts back there int he pocket?

“I haven’t noticed any particular issues with that in terms of the evaluation at all,” Verduzco said. “Obviously the game before this his eyes were all over the place, so that was a concern but he got that corrected.”

Through two weeks, Martinez has thrown the ball 48 times. Thirteen of those passes have been to freshman Wan’Dale Robinson, nine have gone to JD Spielman and eight have gone to Maurice Washington. Martinez has only thrown to his tight ends seven times (six to Jack Stoll, one to Austin Allen) and receivers not named Spielman or Robinson have only drawn six targets (five for Kanawai Noa without a reception and one for Jaevon McQuitty). Mike Williams has played a lot of snaps this season already and hasn’t drawn a single target.

Martinez said on Monday that he wants to do a better job of spreading the ball around, but Verduzco said he’s simply following his progressions.

“That’s just how the read progressions go,” Verduzco said. “If the ball gets distributed X, Y, Z, that’s what the defense is allowing us to do with the ball. I don’t encourage him nor do we coach him in any way, shape or form to get the ball to this guy and so on and so forth.”

Offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Troy Walters said the lack of targets is also on his wideouts who need to do a better job of playing consistently fast. Walters also said he needs to get more guys on the field as Spielman, Robinson, Williams and No have played nearly all of the snaps at wide receiver.

“I think this game, you’ll see more than three guys,” Walters said. “They have a good secondary, very fast. The corners play off at times, so we’ve got to get more guys going and that’s on me. I’ve got to get guys in early, get them in the flow of the game because we’re going to need the depth as we continue the season. I’ll place all of the blame on me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting guys in early, trusting that they’re going to do what they’re supposed to do and keep other guys fresh. 

“If JD and Mike and Kanawai are the only three playing, then they’re going to be worn down by the end of the year. We’ve got to get [Darien] Chase involved, we’ve got to get McQuitty, we’ve got to get Jaron Woodyard in there and add some more depth to the receiving corps.”

Woodyard hasn’t played yet this season and did not make the trip to Boulder after getting banged up in practice late last week.

Sustained rhythm has been a problem for a Nebraska offense based on tempo this season. Nebraska has had four three-and-out drives in each of its first two games. Getting the offense — and Martinez in particular — going early is one of the team’s primary focuses heading into week three.

“Coach Frost and I talked about that probably right after the South Alabama game,” Verduzco said. “Getting him involved as soon as possible, either with a completion or a quarterback designed run, because he responds to that part of the game, getting smacked around a little bit and all that. So it gets him more involved sooner and I think it gets him in rhythm sooner.”

Through two weeks, Martinez hasn’t looked like the Heisman Trophy contender many expected him to be this season, but he showed flashes of that guy against Colorado. 

Nebraska needs more “frickin’ Nebraska quarterback” play out of him moving forward, but in order to do that the guys around him need to elevate their play as well.

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