Purdue Pressures Nebraska Football QB Adrian Martinez to Pass
Photo Credit: John Peterson

Play of the Game: Adrian Martinez’s Second Interception Against Purdue

October 30, 2021

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez made crucial mistakes through the air multiple times in the team’s 28-23 loss to Purdue. 

His first interception was returned for a touchdown. He nearly threw another pick-six before that. Right before halftime with a good shot at least getting into field goal range, he threw three straight incompletions, including a missed deep connection to Samori Touré.  

The Huskers still led at that point, but Martinez’s woes continued with three second-half interceptions. The first of those picks is this week’s Play of the Game. 

Nebraska started its second drive of the second half at Purdue’s 41-yard line before Rahmir Johnson lost four yards. On the next play, Martinez had his jersey grabbed from behind in the pocket, and after attempting to escape from the defender’s grasp, tossed it forward to Travis Vokolek. 

The shovel pass was jumped in front of by Jalen Graham, who hauled in his second interception of the game.

Martinez said postgame that it was a result of trying too hard to make something happen. 

“Forced an opportunity there,” he said. “I was sort of getting dragged down and tried to make something happen and get rid of the ball before taking a sack on second-and-long and was doing too much and that’s one of those opportunities we can’t miss.”

That interception could easily appear as the least consequential of the four turnovers. It wasn’t returned for a touchdown, Purdue didn’t score on the next drive and it didn’t come in the fourth quarter. However, it set the tone for the second half and had impact beyond the next drive. 

The field position was a result of great play by the other two units. After Nebraska opened the half with a three-and-out, a punt pinned Purdue at its own 4-yard line. Despite getting a first down, the Boilermakers ended up with fourth down two yards closer to their own end zone.

The ensuing punt was returned for 11 yards, the Huskers’ longest punt return of the year. It was another ideal opportunity for the Huskers to go up two scores, or at least six points. Nebraska didn’t pass the Purdue 41-yard line again until its final drive of the game, when it was trailing by 11. 

On the other hand, Purdue gained an advantage in field position. Despite punting immediately after the turnover, the Boilermakers backed Nebraska up a bit and ended up getting even better positioning on the Husker punt. That next drive did end with a touchdown. 

The interception was overall symbolic of how most of the second half would go. The struggles from Martinez were there in the first half, but there were enough good plays to balance it out. That didn’t happen in the final two quarters.

Another Nebraska drive crossed midfield in the third quarter. On that third down, Martinez had time to throw, and chose to throw to a heavily-covered Touré for an incompletion. 

Before the Huskers’ final touchdown drive, Martinez had three second-half completions for 43 yards and three second-half interceptions. He didn’t have much more success on the ground, gaining eight yards on four attempts. 

Postgame, the fourth-year starter who began the year hot statistically took responsibility for the miscues. 

“The second half, we just can’t get shut out that way and I attribute that to myself,” he said. “I need to make better decisions to help us on the offensive side of the ball.”

Any of Martinez’s four interceptions could be argued for as the Play of the Game. His second one gets the nod not only because it was heavily important in the moment, but foreshadowed what else was to come.

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