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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Padding the Stats: On Adrian Martinez, Austin Allen and More

November 24, 2021

Football can be an incredible cruel, brutal game, and nobody understands that better than Adrian Martinez.

On Friday, Martinez will join an exclusive club of Nebraska quarterbacks featuring the likes of Taylor Martinez and Tommy Armstrong.

I mean, he already followed in their footsteps when he became Nebraska’s all-time career total offense leader, surpassing Armstrong who had previously surpassed the other Martinez. All three cleared 10,000 yards in their careers. Now, with Scott Frost’s announcement during Monday’s press conference that Adrian will miss Friday’s game against Iowa, all three will have also missed their senior day game because of injury.

As Frost said, Martinez has played through some injuries that would have landed a lot of other players on the shelf this season. He played through the jaw injury, he played through the ankle injury and adrenaline got him through the second half of that game on Saturday with the shoulder injury, but that last one proved to be one hit he just couldn’t shake off.

If his status as a three-year captain wasn’t enough, all you need to do is listen to his teammates talk about him to understand what kind of respect he commands in that locker room.

“Everyone is just amazed by what he has gone through,” wideout Levi Falck said on Monday. “You have not really seen his play dip. He is always out there running around and making athletic throws on the run. Making good decisions. He threw that interception but his shoulder was hurting. Did not look back last drive, drove us all the way down the field. It is just crazy to see. He is playing through multiple injuries. Some guys play through one injury, but he is playing through multiple. Everyone on the team is just amazed and look up to him. We are really proud of what he has accomplished this year.”

If the Wisconsin game truly was his last in a Nebraska uniform (I’ll assume it was until given a reason to think otherwise, which is how I’ve approached most of these extra eligibility decisions), it’s both fitting and incredibly saddening to know his final play was an errant throw forced by a protection breakdown with a missed penalty on top of it.

For whatever reason, Martinez has been snakebitten throughout his career. There have been so many games where he’s played well enough to give Nebraska a chance only for his teammates to let him down. There have also been a number of games where the team around him has played well enough to get a win and he hasn’t been able to deliver. Nebraska simply has not been able to put it all together in big games (and even in a number of not-so-big games) throughout the last four years, and that is ultimately going to be Martinez’s legacy unless he comes back for another year and changes the narrative.

From the outside looking in, it certainly appears Martinez gave everything he had to this program. I’m sure the last four years didn’t play out like Martinez and Frost envisioned when the teamed up back in 2018, but every athlete that puts in the work deserves to go out on his or her own terms. I wish Martinez had gotten that opportunity, especially considering the way he lost his senior season of high school to injury as well.

Martinez is one of a number of Huskers who have decisions to make. JoJo Domann, Samori Touré, Deontai Williams, Marquel Dismuke, Connor Culp, Falck and Ben Stille have all exhausted their eligibility, but Nebraska has 22 players listed on the roster as juniors thanks to the eligibility freeze. A handful of them might be in a position to chase a professional career, some could be ready to move on to the next phase of their lives beyond football (or perhaps look to drop down a level and continue playing elsewhere) and many of them will likely be back in Lincoln next year.

One of those juniors who has already made his decision is tight end Austin Allen, who shared a video on Twitter Tuesday evening announcing that Friday will be his final game at Nebraska. That shouldn’t come as a surprise; when I interviewed Allen for my 2021 Yearbook feature back in May, he essentially said he wasn’t really thinking about the extra year of eligibility. Outside of team wins, I think Allen accomplished everything he was hoping to this season.

He set a program record for tight ends with 36 receptions this year and his yardage total of 547 is 14 shy of the program position record as well. I’m glad Allen will get the chance that injury took from Martinez — to leave it all on the field one last time — and I hope Nebraska gets him that yardage record (and perhaps a touchdown or two as well for good measure).

I’ve known Allen since before his junior year of high school. It’s been pretty cool to see him develop from a skinny basketball player into the legitimate NFL prospect he has become. He’s always been honest and thoughtful with the media, and he isn’t any different away from he microphone. He’s a straight shooter, and I’ve always enjoyed my conversations with him over the years. I know he’s made Aurora incredibly proud, and have no doubts he will continue to do so at the next level.

I’m going to close out this column with some random shoutouts for some very deserving people, players and units from across the sports world.

>> Shoutout to Samori Touré. He came to Nebraska to prove that he can compete at the highest levels of college football, and I think he’s done that. I’ll be honest; I was pretty underwhelmed much of this season because the vast majority of his production early on came against Nebraska’s softest competition. He tended to disappear in the tougher games, and I saw a lot of balls thrown his way fall incomplete because there was a defender draped all over him.

However, he’s really stepped up the last two weeks and showed out when Nebraska really needed him. He caught four passes for 150 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State and followed it up with seven receptions for 113 yards and another score against Wisconsin. Touré has now topped the century mark in five of his 11 games this season and is up to 40 catches for 831 yards and five touchdowns overall with one more game to go. I hope he gets a chance to ball out on Friday and put an exclamation point on his prolific college football career.

>> Shoutout to the Gretna defense. The Dragons captured the Class A state championship on Tuesday night to put a cap on the 2021 high school football season, and they did it by holding a high-powered Omaha Westside team to a field goal in a 7-3 victory.

Junior quarterback Zane Flores got most of the headlines coming into the year after an incredibly productive and efficient sophomore season, and running back Mick Huber drew plenty of praise for his strong close to the season with three straight 100-yard rushing games. Gretna gave up 42 points in its first-round playoff win against a Lincoln East team led by record-setting quarterback Noah Walters. However, in Gretna’s last three games, the Dragons gave up a total of 10 points.

Gretna lived in Westside’s backfield all night long on Tuesday, finishing with eight tackles for loss by six different players and six quarterback hurries. Connor Edwards had a monster game with seven tackles including 1.5 for loss and four hurries while Korbin Nickolite made arguably the biggest play of the game, exploding into the backfield on first-and-goal from the 1 to drop Dominic Rezac for a loss of two. After a fumbled snap and a defensive pass interference penalty on the next two plays, the game came down to one last snap, and a blitzing Edwards forced an errant pass that sailed out of bounds as time expired.

Also shoutout to junior wideout Joe Roll, who counted for 207 of Flores’ 320 passing yards with 11 receptions on 14 targets. Flores went deep to Roll for 53 yards in the fourth quarter to set up the only touchdown of the game, a quarterback sneak from the 1.

>> Shoutout to Dick Vitale.

I was at Memorial Stadium on Tuesday night so I didn’t get to catch the Gonzaga versus UCLA game. The game pitted No. 1 vs. No. 2, but the matchup itself was secondary to the commentary as the legendary college basketball broadcaster called his first game of the season. On Oct. 12, Vitale announced that he had been diagnosed with melanoma, his second cancer diagnosis in a few months after undergoing multiple surgeries to address melanoma. After undergoing treatment over the past month, he made his return to the booth for the biggest game of the season thus far.

Whether you love his broadcasting style or not, no one is more passionate about college basketball than Dickie V and there aren’t many who have done more in the fight against cancer the he has during his four decades as a broadcaster. Seeing Vitale back doing what he loves is, well…

It’s awesome, baby.

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