The year was 2010 and it was a cool October night. I was at my brothers house watching our Nebraska Cornhuskers face off against Kansas State. Both teams headed into the game at 4-0. This was the first true test for the Huskers and it was a road game in a very hostile environment (this was Nebraska's last year in the Big 12 and needless to say we weren't looked upon too kindly). My brother and I had followed the QB story line all pre-season with Taylor Martinez getting the start over Zac Lee and Cody Green. And the first three games of the season Taylor looked every bit the starting QB. He had an old-school Nebraska look to him the way he ran the ball and shook defenders. I was having flash backs to Fraizer, Frost, and Eric Crouch. And he looked faster than those guys! My brother and I were pumped for this game and for the 2010 season. In 2009 we had one of the best defenses in Nebraska football history, anchored by Suh. All we were missing was an explosive offensive. Now we had that explosive player to anchor our offensive.
The first touchdown of the Kansas State game was a 14 yard scramble by Taylor that didn't look that spectacular but it was points and we weren't complaining. The second touchdown was where, for the first time, I saw the real magic that was T-Magic. It happened so fast that if you blinked you would have missed it. Martinez lines up, Helu behind him, hikes the ball goes to hand off to Helu but instead kept it for himself, found a hole and exploded for a 35 yard touchdown. I remember it like it was yesterday. As soon as he broke past the first defender my brother said "goodbye" and sure enough he was gone with a bunch of Wildcats left wondering what just happened. It was a great moment for Husker fans everywhere. Martinez would go on in that game and break off a couple of 80 yard touchdowns. It appeared that Husker football was finally back on the main stage.
The rest of the 2010 season had ups and downs (losing to Texas, Winning at Oklahoma St, beating #6 ranked Missouri at home, Bo yelling at Martinez on the sidelines) and ended on a sour note (losing to Washington in the Bowl game). But I had hope for the 2011 season, plus I'm a Michigander and Big Red was coming to the B1G 10! I was stoked. But again last year was full of ups and downs. Taylor Martinez played OK but he still made dumb mistakes and his passing game was not where it needed to be to seriously compete for a conference championship. Plus, the defense took a step back from the year before, and was just a shadow of the Suh days.
Fast forward to this year. Much has been said about T-Magic and the work he did with Steve Calhoun in the off-season. And so far it appears that the extra work is paying off. Martinez's completion percentage and QB rating are the highest they've ever been. And if you take away the Ohio State game he only has 2 picks on the year so far. He might even flirt with throwing close to 3,000 passing yards (if you include the B1G 10 championship game and a bowl game). He still looks like Uncle Rico from "Napoleon Dynamite" when he throws the ball but his passes have more zip and he's making good decisions. He also looks way more comfortable under center. Make no mistake, Taylor Martinez is a better passer and as a result a better QB. He looks worlds better then when he was a freshman. We don't get as many 80 yard touchdowns and I'm fine with that as long as he's staying healthy and not turning the ball over. But couldn't we get a little old-school Martinez now and again? There have been a few times this year when the Huskers are facing 3rd and 5 and Taylor tries to force the pass instead of running through the wide open gap for the first down. I scream at my TV "Run, Taylor, run! Get that first down!". Taylor Martinez circa 2010 wouldn't have thought twice about running the ball (which was one of his weaknesses) he would have seen that seam in the defense and exploded for the first down plus more. I'm not asking for that Martinez on every play just the one's where it's obvious he needs to run. It's frustrating to see him so close to the first down and try and force a pass or take a hit and throw the ball away, when all he has to do is run a few more yards. I like that he thinks "pass first" on most plays. I like that he is athletic enough to scramble away if the play is busted. I just wish he would use his legs more on those 3rd down opportunities. I don't know if he's afraid to be hit or what but, Taylor, I beg of you; bring back a little 2010 T-Magic!
I know this was a rambling article to basically say I wish Martinez would run more but I could write a book about how much I've enjoyed seeing Taylor Martinez's evolution as a Quarterback. I'm seriously excited for next year. He will be a senior with something to prove. And that should scare everyone on Nebraska's schedule. I'm going to the game in East Lansing this weekend with my brother, Dad, and my 8 year old son. The last time I was at a Nebraska game was in 1995 when Tommie Frazier and the rest of the Cornhuskers came to Spartan Stadium and beat Sparty silly, 50-10. I was yelling with the rest of my family, "Run, Tommie, run!". On Saturday I can't wait to be yelling "Run, Taylor, run!".