On The Road Again: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska Crush Cowboys
It was one of the few times that Martinez didn't either blow past the Cowboys, bounce off a couple of tacklers or drop back and zip in one of his career-high 23 completions.
Coming off one of its most devastating losses in school history, Nebraska bounced back nicely thanks to its Magic Man -- Taylor "T-Magic" Martinez -- in the Cornhuskers' 51-41 dismantling of the Cowboys on Saturday afternoon.
Last week, Martinez watched the final seconds of Nebraska's 20-13 loss to Texas from the bench. He was pulled in the second half, a move NU coach Bo Pelini says he now regrets. However, Martinez spent the final seconds of Saturday's game at Boone Pickens Stadium on the field, taking two snaps and kneeling down as the clock ran out on the Cowboys.
Martinez, known more for his running than his throwing, was Kellen Moore-esque. Martinez completed 23 of 35 for 323 yards and five touchdowns. The five TD passes were the most by a Nebraska freshman and second only to Eric Crouch's school record.
Before Saturday, Martinez had never thrown for more than 150 yards in a game, but he passed that mark early in the third quarter.
"In practice we always pass the ball like that," Martinez said. "Today we just showed everybody else that we can throw the ball like that instead of dropping back and running. My receivers did a great job of finding me and they made great catches."
After last week's drop-a-thon by Nebraska's receivers, including three would-be touchdown passes, the Cornhuskers' receivers routinely found themselves running free through the Cowboys secondary. Nearly every time, Martinez hit them in stride.
"I hope this game keeps giving him more confidence," Pelini said. "He threw it all over the field. He made some great throws. He showed what he's capable of doing. He can hurt you with his feet. He can hurt you with his arm.
"He made really good decisions, the right reads, he executed. When he does that, he's really hard to deal with."
Martinez has been especially hard to deal with on the road.
In three starts at Washington, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, Martinez is averaging 363 yards total offense a game. In those road starts, he's averaging 163 yards rushing a game and 9.2 yards a carry with seven touchdowns. He's also averaging 200 yards passing a game, completing 66 percent with seven more touchdowns.
Home may be where the heart is, but the road is where T-Magic happens.
"When we get away, we're not distracted by anything," Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "We're together. When we're together traveling tight, we're a tough team to beat. When we're at home, sometimes that gets away from us, because we don't have as much control."
One of the advantages playing on the road gives Watson is the opportunity to test his young quarterback the night before the game.
"What's neat is getting with him on the road," Watson said. "I do a little thing called 'air ball' with him. I give him, 'OK, here's 72 Z-drive double out,' it's 'Cover 4' what do you do?'
"Boom -- he spits it out. I'm trying to get it to get in his blood system so when he sees it -- bang! It happens on the field."
What happened Saturday was Martinez became the first player in school history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game. Watson believes it also was the continual transformation of the first freshman to start a season opener in Nebraska's history.
"It's more Taylor growing up," Watson said. "He grew up today. It's a big step in his growth.
"Today you got to see what we see in practice every day. He has a competitive arm. He can compete with his arm. He's just a redshirt freshman. He's getting better every time he walks out there. There's always a performance that's a threshold performance that throws him through the door. Hopefully this will be the one today."
Besides Martinez's passing exhibition, he also rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries. He routinely avoided oncoming Cowboys rushers or either bounced off them when he needed.
"Not every apple ripens when you want it to," Watson said. "He's been getting more comfortable. He has a real knowledge of what we're doing now. His confidence ... you can see a little light goes on, he brightens up. Today was the first time he has consistently done it in a game."
Pelini knew the challenge of coming back off last week's loss to Texas. The Cornhuskers had built that game up for 10 months, seeking revenge for the Big 12 title game loss, and then laid a big, fat egg -- actually, they dropped it.
But now Nebraska (6-1) returns home for a huge game with Missouri on Saturday that likely will determine the Big 12 North champion.
"Last week was a humbling experience," Nebraska wide receiver Niles Paul said. "I was very proud of everybody from the offensive line to the running backs to the receivers. Everybody played hard and put points on the board and that's all that matters."
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow at Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY