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Taylor Martinez is a frustratingly satisfying enigma that, as Huskers fans, we almost hate to love and love to hate the way he plays the game.
One minute we are mashing buttons on our texts to friends, nearly breaking our precious iPhones, taking to Twitter to blast the kid and throwing couch cushions at the television. The next minute (or last minute as it were) we’re talking about what a gamer he is, praising him for his guts and will, and jumping up and down in our living rooms (like I was) after yet another fourth-quarter comeback win.
Martinez is maddening. The fumble against Michigan State epitomizes Martinez. He loses the ball, attempts to scoop and score (he would have) and a lineman falls on it to recover and keep hope alive. Then there’s the fourth-quarter play where he has a clear lane to the corner of the end zone and instead turns all Brett Favre on us and flips the ball to Kenny Bell. Daring, gutsy, kind of stupid. Then he throws the pick that nearly ended the game. Even after all of that, he manages to get it together and bring Nebraska all the way back and orchestrates another game winner.
The final drive was clinical. Nine plays, 80 yards in a minute-20, and a 4th-and-10 completion to Kyler Reed that put Nebraska in position to tie, at the least. But Bo went for the kill and the fade to Turner was majestic.
Martinez is both cocaine and aspirin. Watching him play sends your heart racing, blood pressure rising, searching for euphoria, then he throws an interception and you crash. And it repeats. Any given game its drive, drive, pick. One play, 71-yard touchdown run. Drive, drive, fumble. Then 38-yard touchdown pass. Your heart goes on such a roller coaster you feel it may explode. Then, like relief of a heart attack, you get the brilliance of his fourth quarters. Aspirin.
Husker football is our drug of choice, and we’ve had no lack of highs and lows this year, not only game to game, but within games. And we’re both addicted to and would love to kick the habit. Why oh why do we have to go through this every week. Can’t we just hold destiny like an egg, not so tight that is cracks, and not so lax that it slips? Can we not trail by double-digits in the fourth quarter? Can I not keep my cardiologist on speed dial every Saturday?
Hopefully serenity is coming. Hopefully some home cooking the next two games will provide a rehab effect. Hopefully we don’t relapse and have to relive the last month.
Lets get back to reality for just a paragraph or two and look at some raw numbers from Saturday. The passing numbers aren’t great. Hell, they aren’t average, honestly. Martinez was 16-36 for just 160 yards and three interceptions (we’ll get to the two touchdowns). Two of the three interceptions were drive killers, one on Michigan State’s 33, one on their five.
The rushing game, however was brilliant. Martinez tore off for 59 yards that led to his first TD pass. He added a 71-yard TD run and a 35-yard TD run (aspirin for the “bad ankle”?). And Ameer Abdullah’s 110 yards rushing is but an afterthought. All together Nebraska rushed for 313 yards, just short of the 340 that the Sparty D has allowed the last four games combined. And they are doing it without Rex Burkhead.
The tide is turning. Its not just that Taylor Martinez is stepping into his role as a leader. Its not just that we’re getting mass production from Abdullah, Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Turner, Braylon Heard (at times) and Imani Cross (when needed). Its not even that the offensive line is growing into their skin. It is that, for the most part, all of these pieces return next year. This is not to dismiss the possibilities of this year.
The Wisconsin game was a turning point for this team and the coaching staff alike. They are coming into maturity. Want more, number’s geeks? Since 2008, Bo Pelini was 3-8 in games decided by 6 points or less. In 2012 Pelini and his team is 3-1 in such games. Growth.
Personally, I’m hoping the Huskers won’t have to overcome such obstacles in the last three games. All I’m saying is that Husker fans should be very excited for the possibilities, and I have been preaching patience all season, and I think we’re seeing that Wisconsin win pay dividends.
Michigan State and specifically Le’Veon Bell was very angry about the calls, especially late in the game, that didn’t go their way. Bell sent up these gems on Twitter:
He followed that up with “I expected all the hate, but idc…we legitimately lost ONE game this year…and that was Notre Dame! The black & white team beat us 4 times”. (Link quotes the Tweets and shows the play that spawned them.)
Bell later deleted the tweets.
Bell wasn’t the only one to pop off either. Many other Spartans are quoted in the article by www.larrybrownsports.com. Seems like if more of that fuel was concentrated on the field, maybe MSU isn’t 5-5, but that’s just my opinion.
There are no words I can construct together that will make my point sufficiently, but I’ll try. One, if you put your team in position to allow the refs to decide your game, you lost the game long before that call. Two, I might have sympathy if it happened once (see Green Bay Packers), but as Ron White jokes “It seems to me, after about 39,000 times you’d start to think: maybe it’s me.”
Michigan State has lost four games by four points or less. They don’t finish games. Period. And fans are calling out the coaches this week, too.