October 07, 2010
Nebraska 48, Kansas State 13. As exhilarating as it must be for Cornhusker fans to have a truly dynamic playmaker at quarterback after nearly a solid decade of middling caretakers, I imagine there's a frustrated twinge of missed opportunity, too. Where was this Taylor Martinez kid last year, when the slightest semblance of a heartbeat on offense would have meant a Big 12 championship and a darkhorse national run opposite a genuinely dominant defense?
/> Answer: He was on the scout team as an obscure true freshman, sitting behind ineffectual starter Zac Lee, more hyped classmate Cody Green and a converted linebacker coaches moved specifically to shore up the sketchy quarterback depth on an attack that finished 11th in the Big 12 in total offense.
But as for this year, yeah, Nebraska finally has a quarterback. It has an offense, even if it consists mostly of Martinez making everyone in a different color jersey look like they're moving in quicksand. His 241 rushing yards tonight moves Martinez to No. 2 nationally behind Michigan's Denard Robinson for the season, and his four touchdowns on the ground made him the national leader with twelve in five games. Martinez's 35, 54, 80 and 41-yard gains also pushed him past Robinson with a dozen runs of at least 20 yards, and increased his per-carry average for the season to 10.8. That's a first down every time he pulls it out of the running back's stomach on the read option.
All of which happened to set up two more big-play touchdowns in the second half, a 68-yard sprint by Roy Helu and a 79-yard bomb to a wide, wiiiiide-open Kyler Reed, against a defense that had lost sight of anything but Martinez setting it on fire. So Nebraska definitely has an offense.
Say what you will about Kansas State, or Washington after the 'Huskers' 56-21 romp in Seattle a few weeks back. The Wildcats and Huskies have both acquitted themselves well outside of their encounters with Martinez and the Blackshirts, especially in impressive wins over UCLA and USC, respectively. Nebraska has gone into both places and left K-State and U-Dub both lying in pieces on their own field.
It's not time yet to call the 'Huskers the best team in the Big 12 when Oklahoma's also sitting there at 5-0 and Texas has another eight days to pull some kind of bye week jujitsu to salvage its flagging season in Lincoln on Oct. 16. But the lingering questions about Nebraska since Bo Pelini took the reins have all been about generating enough big plays and points with no apparent playmakers whatsoever on the offense. There's way too far to go to start writing them into the BCS title game, but those qualms have been answered, and then some. The only course for defenses at this point is to figure out how to make Martinez throw when he doesn't want to, which happens to be the one issue Nebraska fans are already certain they can live with.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.