Nebraska Coach Says Pulling Taylor Martinez Might Have Been a Mistake
What was a bit of a surprise: Pelini conceded it might have been a mistake yanking Martinez in favor of demoted starter Zac Lee.
"You look back and I don't know if that was the right thing to do," said Pelini, whose team dropped nine spots in this week's AP poll to No. 14 after suffering its first loss of the season. "When you look back, Taylor wasn't the only problem. We were just looking for a spark. That was tough situation for a young guy. You live and learn as a head coach. You don't know if that was the right decision to make, but it was the decision that was made and you move forward."
Pelini and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson made the decision to pull Martinez late in the third quarter to give a stagnant Cornhuskers' offense a spark. Martinez, who had been receiving Heisman Trophy hype after putting up spectacular rushing numbers in Nebraska's zone-read option attack, was ineffective most of the day against the Longhorns' speed on defense and discipline in playing assignment football.
When Martinez was yanked, the Huskers had managed just three points and were trailing 20-3. Facing a defense that dared him to pass, Martinez completed just 4 of 12 passes for 63 yards. But part of the problem was repeated dropped passes by the Nebraska receivers that would have resulted in touchdowns. At the same time, Martinez wasn't breaking the runs he was accustomed to either, gaining just 21 yards on 13 attempts for a meager 1.6 yards per carry.
Still, Martinez seemed upset on the sidelines as he stood mostly by himself after being pulled for the first time this season.
"He's a competitive guy," Pelini said when asked about his young quarterback's sideline demeanor. "But he's in good spirits. He's ready to go."
The interesting thing Saturday was that Lee did seem to give the offense a spark if for nothing else than his ability to complete passes. Lee was able to connect on a couple passes Martinez had been short on Saturday, but he only led the Cornhuskers offense to three points on a day the unit didn't manage a touchdown.
Pelini was asked whether his regret in pulling Martinez was rooted in the belief the player nicknamed T-Magic was perhaps a play or two away from making something happen Saturday. Pelini became a little defensive.
"I have confidence in Taylor Martinez. I will just leave it at that," said Pelini, whose team is preparing to travel to undefeated and 17th-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday. "I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the guy."