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On the report card, Martinez only earned a C+. Then the Big Ten awarded him "Player of the Week" honors for his performance. What's the disconnect? I look at this again.
Some people questioned my C+ grade for Taylor Martinez even before the Big Ten awarded him co-offensive player of the week honors for his performance against Wisconsin.
QB: David Gilbert's trash talking seemed to get to Martinez. He fumbled the opening snap, and many of his throws were off-target. Credit the receivers for making the catch, but there weren't opportunities for yards after the catch. Martinez should not have been surprised by the all-out blitz that resulted in his third quarter fumble; that was pretty well telegraphed. Martinez has to get rid of that ball sooner one way or another. Conversely, his running was on the spot. Nifty 38 yard touchdown run, and having the awareness to scoop up the loose football and run for a first down to keep the game winning field goal drive alive. Grade: C+
Martinez did a few really, really good things against Wisconsin. And that, I believe, is why Martinez won the honor. That 38 yard touchdown run was highlight reel quality, and his scoop of that fourth quarter fumble to keep the drive alive was noteworthy as well.
But I also look at his whole game performance and saw too many things that a third year junior quarterback shouldn't be doing. Pulling out from under center without the ball on the opening play of the game, and failing to recognize the oncoming blitz in the third quarter were really bad plays. The first put Nebraska in 2nd and long and took the Huskers off of their script. The second gave Wisconsin a 17 point lead in the third quarter. Against another opponent, that second mistake could have been fatal. Let's not forget that Nebraska chose to take the ball to open the game to send a message that they were going to seize control of the game right away; a three-and-out was not part of the mix.
I'm also concerned about the number of times players had to leap or dive to make the catch. Yes, Wisconsin's secondary is better than Arkansas State's or Southern Miss's. But receivers were open, and there were too many missed opportunities to make plays or make them bigger.
Am I grading Martinez hard? Guilty as charged. I'm grading him based on what I thought he was capable of performing against Wisconsin. Eliminating the fumbles or hitting receivers in stride would have elevated his grade to a B+. Doing both would have given him an "A". And if he would have seen Quincy Enunwa wide open in the end zone in the fourth quarter, he might have gotten an A+.