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It felt like there were a million other places Adrian Martinez would have rather been Monday afternoon. Not that anyone ever particularly enjoys getting up in front of a bunch of cameras and recorders and talking, but the sophomore quarterback just seemed different.
“My teammates deserve better out of me,” he said.
Martinez took the full weight of Saturday’s offensive disappointment and placed it squarely on his shoulders Monday morning. (He did the same after the game, too.) He has to play better, he said. He has to practice better. He has to make a few more throws.
He was not interested in talking about the Colorado game last year. He was not interested in talking about the play — you know, that play — that knocked him from the game and sidelined him for the Week 3 loss to Troy. He was not interested in talking about his center’s snaps, at least not to fault Cam Jurgens.
He appears focused on one thing and one thing only: the next game.
That the opponent is hated Big Eight rival Colorado seems irrelevant to him at this point.
“Today you could just kind of tell he was really, really focused and zoned-in and wanting to make sure he made all the right reads and all the right throws,” said freshman wideout Wan’Dale Robinson.
“Oh yeah, definitely.”
Martinez finished Saturday 13-for-22 passing for 178 yards and a pick. He only had six yards rushing on 13 carries. In 12 games to begin his college career, he’s been held without a score three times — Michigan in one half of a road romp, Michigan State in the snow, and South Alabama.
Nebraska’s 4.2 yards-per-play average Saturday was the same; it was only worse against the two Michigan schools last season. Frost said he wasn’t sure whether the offense team was too relaxed, “feeling ourselves,” or if the staff got too scheme-y with the game plan.
“It starts with our quarterback,” Frost said. “He’s got to be the hardest-working guy at practice. I love the kid, he’s an unbelievable player and he’s going to have a great year, but he didn’t have his best week of practice [last week].”
Can anyone else remember a time when Frost publicly challenged his quarterback like that?
None of this is to pile on, just to set the table. Both quarterback and coach know Game 1 was not indicative of ability. And everyone involved with Saturday’s performance feels, frankly, kinda pissed off about the way things looked.
Last season Nebraska had its game before Colorado canceled. This time around, it got a game in, some kinks worked through, some kinks exposed and some anger built up. The Buffs better be ready. Is there a difference between how a team coming off a 37-point win (the line) and strong offensive showing would approach a marquee road game versus a team feeling like it didn’t put its best foot forward? We’re about to find out.
Nebraska spent most of the offseason wearing “Day by Day” workout shirts that featured the phrase “One More” across the back. Frost reminded them of that following Saturday’s game. Focus on preparation, focus on assignments, focus on the details of each rep in practice and Saturday will look better.
“You could tell last week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I was pleased with our defense. Our offense was nowhere near our standard,” he said. “You play how you practice. You’re not all of a sudden going to show up and play well on Saturday, if you didn’t execute things on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The good thing is I think we got [the team’s] ear on that and today looked really good for the first day of a new game plan.
“[Martinez] responded today. He operated faster, cleaner. When he takes off, I want him to be an I-Back in a quarterback’s uniform. That’s what he can be and what he should be. I saw that [Monday]. We put him in some bad spots schematically on Saturday. That’s our fault as coaches. We put him in some bad spots not being able to get his eyes where they should have been because he was jumping for a bunch of snaps. Those are things we can get fixed. If we give him a good environment, I think you’ll see the Adrian we all know and expect.”
Robinson has an unwavering confidence in his quarterback. “I still think he’s the best quarterback in the country, in my opinion,” he said. Most everyone around Martinez expects the missed opportunities from South Alabama to be capitalized on next Saturday.
Martinez expects to meet a standard he doesn’t feel he lived up to in Week 1.
“I am the quarterback of this team and Coach [Verduzco] has done a good job coaching me up and it’s on me at that point,” he said. “I didn’t go out there and execute the way that I should have.”
Added Frost: “I think he’s determined.”
Good luck with that, Buffs.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.