Photo by John S. Peterson
Nebraska Football

Freshman Martinez Plays More Like A Senior in Nebraska's 53-28 Win

October 21, 2018
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He's not a veteran. Sure looks like one, though.

"I had no idea he was 25-of-29 [passing]," head coach Scott Frost said of his quarterback, Adrian Martinez, after the Huskers' 53-28 win over Minnesota. "Those are senior numbers, those aren’t 18-year-old numbers. I’m glad he’s here.”

You and everyone else, Coach. Because Martinez is just 18 years old. The true freshman quarterback appeared in just his sixth game as a college football player and turned in maybe his most complete all-around game yet.

Completing 63 percent of his passes entering the day, Martinez missed just four passes; he came out of the gates hitting on each of his first 11. 

"I saw from Martinez exactly what you saw from Martinez, I think he’s one of the better players in the country already," Minnesota coach PJ Fleck said. "There's a reason why he’s ranked so high and a reason why he was a big-time quarterback coming out and everybody wanted him and there’s a reason why he flipped here. He knew he could come in here and play and start and create his legacy and what he’s going to leave at Nebraska football."

Martinez's 276 yards through the air marked the fourth straight game he's gone over 250 yards, a first at Nebraska since Tommy Armstrong Jr. in 2015. The aerial attack was just a part of the picture though, Martinez topped 400 yards of total offense for the third time this season and 300 for the fourth. 

To put that into context, a Nebraska freshman has accounted for 300 yards of total offense in a single game just six times in program history. Four of those games belong to Martinez.

His 125 yards on the ground were a career-high and he did it on 15 carries. It bumped his season yardage total to 415 yards, the most by a true freshman quarterback in a season in program history. Whether it was scrambling away from pressure or running QB wrap up the guy, Minnesota had trouble keeping Martinez contained all afternoon long. He finished with gains of 22, 37 and 53 yards on the ground..

"He’s a running back that’s an incredible quarterback," Fleck said. "He’s so fast, he’s so quick, he’s bigger than you think and he can hurt you.”

Maybe the biggest sign of growth from Martinez Saturday was in his decision-making. There was a fumble, but the freshman was interception-free for just the second time this season. He wasn't missing his target when he chose to fire and he wasn't missing on reads. 

"That guy, from the summer, he's been so mature above his ears," wideout Stanley Morgan Jr. said. "To see that guy just out there running and I got a block for him and he sprang one, it's amazing. That kid is going to be real special in the future."

Saturday represented what was perhaps the most free-flowing Husker offense to date this season. The Huskers dialed up a Statue of Liberty play in the first quarter and then ran a fake off it later. Earlier in the week, quarterback coach Mario Verduzco was asked if there was anything they had in the playbook that Martinez couldn't run yet and Verduzco said no, but the young quarterback looked more in control than ever and the play-calling seemed to open up because of it.

Asked if the game is starting to slow down for him, Martinez said,  “I would say so, a little bit. Obviously, it is an adjustment and some things you can’t learn without just playing experience. I feel really good right now, really a big credit to the coaches and the guys I have around me, they make it really easy. Guys like Stanley and JD [Spielman]. I mean, I think I’m in a great situation."

In his postgame, Martinez flashed more of that poise. He said the team needs to remain level-headed and continue to work. Put things in perspective, he said, this was only one win and Nebraska wants a lot more.

"We expected to win Week 1," he said. "I’m thankful we are finally here, but we haven’t arrived. We have a lot of season left, lots of opportunities to win games here, so we have to finish.”

Are we sure he's not a senior? Sure looks like one.

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