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‘None of that Matters;’ Verduzco Focused on Next Game as He Evaluates Martinez’s Play

September 14, 2021

Through three games, Adrian Martinez has completed 62.2% of his passes for 728 yards (9.8 yards per attempt), four touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also leading the team in rushing with 256 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and three more scores.

Those numbers don’t really mean much in his quarterback coach’s mind, though.

“[He’s] been good, but none of that matters,” Mario Verduzco said. “The only thing that matters is this game this Saturday, and after this game this Saturday the only thing that matters is the game after that.”

Verduzco said some variation of “it doesn’t matter” four more times after that, declining to expand on what Martinez has been doing well and what he thought of his quarterback’s decision-making in the process.

For the fourth-year starting quarterback, this season is all about staying in the moment and locking in to what he is supposed to do on any given play. That’s the challenge for him this Saturday when the Huskers head down to Norman.

“As it is every week for him, do his job,” Verduzco said. “Do whatever it takes to get it done, but play the game within the framework of his job and not try to do somebody else’s job, because you’re playing a team like Oklahoma and things are good, things are bad, there’s frustration and yada yada yada. You can’t let that get to you. It’s been like that for every snap of every game for every year he’s been here.”

Finding the balance between trying to make plays and not doing too much is something Martinez has been working toward throughout his career. One change that has helped in that area is Verduzco spending game days on the sideline instead of in the box, thanks to a request from Scott Frost. Verduzco said he’s only been at field-level four times throughout his collegiate coaching career that has spanned more than three decades.

“For me, figuring out the organizational pattern of when he comes off the field, when I talk to him, what I talk to him about, that was kind of something I needed to work through that first week, which I did,” Verduzco said. “But it’s good having that face-to-face communication with him on a constant level. When I’m in the booth, we talk, boom. Now I see him all the time and if there’s something I need to remind him about, boom, it’s immediate.”

The “doing too much” mistakes have been few and far between so far for Martinez this season, but one notable example was the fumble late in the first half against Illinois that the Illini returned for a touchdown. Martinez hasn’t given the ball away since.

“I think me being down on the field with him, I’m able to talk to him about that on a constant basis, over and over,” Verduzco said. “Had I had that moment back right before the Illinois game, I would have reminded him, ‘Hey man, we’re right before the half, if something happens, if a pass play’s called, whatever it is, just cover it up and let’s get into halftime.’ But it was getting used to being back on the sideline and that sort of thing, so I’m working through that and we feel pretty good about where I am right now talking about those things.”

Though the game-day interaction has changed, Verduzco said he hasn’t altered the way he coaches his quarterbacks.

“The most important thing I can do for a young guy in that situation is just be consistent and not change who I am and both change things and whatnot,” Verduzco said. “Now, are there things we have to kind of reinvent and make sure that we’re doing different drills to accommodate what he might have a deficiency with? Yeah, absolutely. But in terms of my demeanor and how I talk with him, not it hasn’t. I’m on the sidelines now, so it’s more face-to-face communication, which has been good, actually.”

So far this season, the big plays Martinez has made have far outnumbered the mistakes, One of those big plays was a 71-yard scramble that set up Nebraska’s first touchdown against Buffalo on Saturday.

“Those are the kind of guys we like to recruit, that are athletic and make those sorts of plays,” Verduzco said. “He did a nice job of recognizing it was a zero blitz and we had nothing going on. He didn’t want to get out of it, so he felt like he could handle the blitzer and he did. It was fortunate that he was able to make the play he did.”

Martinez is beating teams with big plays through the air as well. Through three games, Nebraska already has 14 pass plays of 20-plus yards including nine of 30 or more. The Huskers have three plays of 50 or more yards through the air. Last year, Nebraska had just 18 plays of 20-plus yards in eight games and only topped 40 once. Considering the opposition, however, Verduzco is still in wait-and-see mode in terms of how much progress Nebraska has made in tis downfield passing attack. After all, the only game that matters is the next one.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us as we move forward with the opponents that we have coming up to manufacture and make certain those things happen,” Verduzco said. “It’s been good up to this point. Obviously we have more speed at the receiver position, so that helps him and us pushing the ball down the field. We just have to make certain when those guys are open they count.”

The primary recipient of Martinez’s downfield throws has been Montana transfer Samori Touré who has turned 13 catches into 306 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games as a Husker.

“He trusts Samori, Samori’s a bright cat,” Verduzco said. “Coach [Matt] Lubick and [offensive analysts Keanon Lowe] and [Mike] Cassano have done a great job getting those guys cranked up, particularly him, and he knows what he’s doing, how he wants to do it, he is where he’s supposed to be and Adrian trusts that.”

Verduzco said he feels good about Martinez’s mindset heading into Nebraska’s game against Oklahoma, but he doesn’t want to say too much beyond that. He’s waiting to see how Martinez does his job on Saturday.

“All I know is let’s get it done, do his job on Saturday, take care of the ball and let the chips fall where they may,” Verduzco said.

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