Following the 2001 season, Eric Crouch left the program. He’d been a Heisman Trophy winner, a Walter Camp and Davey O’Brien winner, a First Team All-American selection, and the Big 12’s offensive player of the year. He was also part of Nebraska’s last conference champion in 1999. Crouch’s legacy as one of the greatest Husker quarterbacks of all time is secure.
We wanted to know who’d win a competition to determine the best quarterback since Crouch, what would separate guys who didn’t have the national recognition to cement their resumes? We seeded 16 guys who have started a game in the last 20 years (19 seasons specifically) and you voted on who would advance.
Today we have our answer. Taylor Martinez is the winner.
No. 1 Taylor Martinez defeats No. 2 Zac Taylor: Martinez actually lost the Twitter vote and still won the championship round. Taylor picked up 54% of the 700 or so votes on Twitter, but Martinez dominated the Instagram vote. Of the roughly 1,500 votes on Instagram, Martinez won 62% of them, enough to make him the winner with about 57% of the total vote. Interestingly enough, Taylor had been dominating the Instagram vote in his previous matchups.
Martinez was the lightening rod necessary, it seems, to break that trend.
While Taylor had a rather steady two-year tenure as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, it seemed voters resonated with Martinez’s relative flash factor. The California product also has the “what if?” component attached to his Husker legacy. What if he didn’t get hurt? What might that 2013 season have looked like if he was completely healthy?
A two-time captain, Martinez set career program records for total offense, passing yards, completions, touchdowns, and starts during his time at Nebraska. His 2,975 career rushing yards rank second all-time by a Cornhusker quarterback.
He also broke the single-season program records for total offense and total touchdowns thanks to a prolific 2012 campaign. He produced 3,890 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading the Huskers to a 10-4 record, a Big Ten Championship appearance, and a Capital One Bowl appearance.
That season might have served as the difference-maker in his Final Four matchup with five-seed Tommy Armstrong Jr., largely his statistical equal. Nebraska was 7-1 in conference play, the best conference record a Nebraska team had produced since Crouch’s 2001 campaign. Nebraska beat Wisconsin 30-27 to open the conference slate after trailing 27-10 at one point in the third quarter.
Martinez had 181 yards passing, 107 yards rushing, and three total touchdowns that day.
Nebraska was blown out at Ohio State the following week, but then rattled off six straight wins to claim the division crown and book what remains the program’s only trip to the Big Ten Championship game.
A foot injury took away his senior season, one that was later revealed to have been suffered in the fourth quarter of Nebraska’s 2013 season-opener against Wyoming. Nebraska blew a 21-3 lead in an early-season ranked matchup with UCLA, of which Martinez was a part, and he only played one more game after that—a month later in an 11-point loss to Minnesota.
Nebraska was 9-4 that season thanks in part to Martinez’s backups, Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III. But if not for Martinez’s injury—a “plantar plate tear” of the second MPJ in his left foot—would Nebraska have been able to return to the Big Ten title game?
Martinez’s brilliance pre-injury might suggest that answer would have been yes.
He had an element of combustibility to his game, a sense that at any given moment he could flip a game on its head with his unreal athleticism. As Nebraska gets further and further removed from the Bo Pelini era, it seems Martinez’s positives have shown brighter than some of the more-criticized aspects of his game.
He beat No. 16 Andrew Bunch in the opening round of 16, then No. 8 Sam Keller in the following round before taking down Martinez in the Final Four.
Taylor, our No. 2 seed, beat No. 15 Ryker Fyfe and No. 7 Zac Lee before taking down No. 3 Joe Ganz in the Final Four.
The only upset we had in this bracket was when Armstrong beat No. 4 Jammal Lord in the Elite Eight round.
One more time, here’s our seeding of the 16 quarterbacks:
No. 1: Taylor Martinez (2009-13)
Record as a starter: 29-14
Career stats: 7,258 passing yards, 59.8% completion rate, 56 passing touchdowns against 29 interceptions, 2,975 rushing yards, 31 rushing touchdowns
No. 2: Zac Taylor (2005-06)
Record as a starter: 17-9
Career stats: 5,850 passing yards, 57.2% completion rate, 45 passing touchdowns against 20 interceptions, minus-73 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns
No. 3: Joe Ganz (2004-08)
Record as a starter: 10-6
Career stats: 5,125 passing yards, 65.1% completion rate, 44 passing touchdowns against 18 interceptions, 341 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns
No. 4: Jammal Lord (1999-2003)
Record as a starter: 17-10
Career stats: 2,848 passing yards, 48% completion rate, 18 passing touchdowns against 22 interceptions, 2,573 rushing yards, 24 rushing touchdowns
No. 5: Tommy Armstrong Jr. (2012-16)
Record as a starter: 30-14
Career stats: 8,871 passing yards, 53.3% completion rate, 67 passing touchdowns against 44 interceptions, 1,819 rushing yards, 23 rushing touchdowns
No. 6: Adrian Martinez (2018-present)
Record as a starter: 11-16
Career stats: 5,628 passing yards, 64.2% completion rate, 31 passing touchdowns against 20 interceptions, 1,776 rushing yards, 22 rushing touchdowns
No. 7: Zac Lee (2007-10)
Record as a starter: 8-4
Career stats: 2,250 passing yards, 58.3% completion rate, 14 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, 245 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown
No. 8: Tanner Lee (2016-17)
Record as starter: 4-8
Career stats: 3,143 passing yards, 57.5% completion rate, 23 touchdowns against 16 interceptions, minus-97 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns
No. 9: Sam Keller (2006-07)
Record as a starter: 4-5
Career stats: 2,422 passing yards, 63.1% completion rate, 14 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, minus-78 rushing yards
No. 10: Cody Green (2009-10)
Record as a starter: 4-0
Career stats: 657 passing yards, 54.1% completion rate, five touchdowns against three interceptions, 254 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns
No. 11: Joe Dailey (2003-04)
Record as a starter: 5-6
Career stats: 2,142 passing yards, 50% completion rate, 19 touchdowns against 21 interceptions, 177 rushing yards, four rushing scores
No. 12: Luke McCaffrey (2019-20)
Record as a starter: 1-1
Career stats: 608 passing yards, 64.8% completion rate, three touchdowns against six interceptions, 530 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns
No. 13: Noah Vedral (2018-19)
Record as a starter: 0-2
Career stats: 447 passing yards, 59% completion rate, no touchdowns against one interception, 119 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns
No. 14: Ron Kellogg III (2009-13)
Record as a starter: 0-1
Career stats: 941 passing yards, 58.7% completion rate, seven touchdowns against four interceptions, minus-14 rushing yards
No. 15: Ryker Fyfe (2012-16)
Record as a starter: 1-2
Career stats: 1,043 passing yards, 52.7% completion rate, 10 touchdowns against six interceptions, minus-13 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown
No. 16: Andrew Bunch (2017-19)
Record as a starter: 0-1
Career stats: 333 passing yards, 60.4% completion rate, two touchdowns against two interceptions, 39 rushing yards
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.