Through seven games, Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez is having of one of the best seasons of his college career, if not the best.
He’s averaging more total yards per game than he did in any of the past three years and is on pace to surpass the career-high 25 total touchdowns he had in 2018.
The fourth-year’s quarterback success hasn’t translated to extra wins yet, though. He’s had over 300 total yards in five games this year, but only one has ended with his team on top. In games against Illinois, Michigan State and Michigan, ill-timed turnovers played a role in sinking the Huskers.
As far as his late-game fumble against the Wolverines goes, Martinez said Monday that he has to be more aware and simply hold onto the ball better. After the game on Saturday, he mentioned that he thought the play had concluded by the time the ball was ripped out, but didn’t use it as an excuse.
Even with those crucial mistakes, his teammates had nothing but praise for the surging quarterback.
“He is one tough son of a bitch,” offensive lineman Turner Corcoran said. “I’m being straightforward, he’s the heart and soul of that offense, he’s the heart and soul of this team.”
Martinez said that his good state of mind and performance this season has been a culmination of his Nebraska career up until now.
“All the combined experiences from the past years and some of the work I’ve done off the field to be where I’m at now has helped me sort of handle the whole deal in terms of the player that I wanted to become,” Martinez said.
Through the final five games, the quarterback — along with the rest of the team — is looking to turn his statistical success into wins. That’ll start with this Saturday’s matchup against Minnesota.
Nebraska has lost two straight games to the Golden Gophers after a win in 2018, and Martinez has had an inconsistent role in the series. The 2018 game was his first win with the program, and he had 401 total yards and four touchdowns in the game. He missed the 2019 loss with an injury.
In 2020, he was just a few games removed from regaining his starting spot from Luke McCaffrey. In the 24-17 loss, Martinez came out for a few plays with a minor injury, and McCaffrey threw an interception in his absence that turned into a short Minnesota touchdown drive.
Martinez returned the next drive, but in the fourth quarter, he fumbled in Nebraska territory with the Huskers down three. That also allowed the Gophers to have another short field and get into the endzone.
This season has featured little doubt about Martinez’s health so far and there’s no quarterback controversy. However, he’s taken lessons with him from last year, mainly learning that he still has an impact on the team unrelated to on-field success.
“It was challenging from a competitive standpoint, obviously, like I said earlier, mentally, physically,” Martinez said. “… For me it was being experienced as far as learning I had an impact, outside of just the role I was playing as a starting quarterback.”
He said that Gophers defense “flies around” and is physical, similar to other Big Ten defenses. Minnesota ranks in the bottom half of the conference in pass defense, allowing 230.8 yards through the air per game. Its last game was a 20-13 win over Purdue, where Boilermaker quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for 371 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 52 pass attempts.
Nebraska is favored in the road contest, but is also winless on the road this year, an area where the Huskers have had struggles under coach Scott Frost dating back to his first season. The team needs to go 3-2 in the final five weeks to reach bowl eligibility, but its keeping the focus on the week ahead.
“This team goes out and battles. They do. We still, despite our record, know how good of a team we are and what we’re capable of,” Martinez said. “We still have some big games on the schedule and the biggest one’s Minnesota.”