STILLWATER, Okla. — The game finally came along Saturday when Taylor Martinez’s speed and running ability were only a bonus.
In a 51-41 win over Oklahoma State, the Nebraska quarterback let his arm make a statement.
Martinez set NU freshman records for passing yards (323) and passing touchdowns (five), leading the Huskers through a Big 12 pinball game that featured 1,035 combined total yards before a crowd of 55,935 at Boone Pickens Stadium.
And if the meat and potatoes for Martinez were the surprising throwing numbers (23 of 35, no interceptions), the gravy was another 100-yard rushing game (19 carries, 112 yards). That made him the first player in school history to throw for 300 and run for 100 in the same game.
“He’s just getting better every time he walks out there,” NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “His confidence gains. There’s always a performance that’s a threshold performance, kind of throws him through the door, and hopefully this will be the one today.”
It helped push Nos. 13 and 14 Nebraska back in the right direction. Martinez was among several Huskers finding redemption in the wake of the 20-13 home loss to Texas the week before. NU (6-1, 2-1 Big 12) survived a wild first half before the defense settled down. Martinez, meanwhile, kept firing in the final two quarters against Oklahoma State, which came into Saturday as one of only 10 remaining unbeatens.
“We said going in we've got to do whatever it takes to win the football game,” NU coach Bo Pelini said. “That’s what we did today.”
Who knew it would include Martinez throwing twice as many passes and for twice as many yards as he had in any of his previous six starts?
“We’d been rushing for a whole bunch of yards in the previous five or six games, so of course everybody is going to try to stop the run,” Martinez said. “We knew the passing game was going to be open — and it was — and we threw for a lot of yards.”
Watson had been singing the praises of Martinez as a passer, but his numbers had been rather pedestrian at the season’s midway point — 120.5 yards per game, a .566 completion percentage and just three touchdowns.
But there was Martinez outdoing Oklahoma State junior Brandon Weeden, the Big 12 passing leader, as the Huskers stopped a 21-game skid against teams ranked No. 19 or higher by beating the 15th- and 17th-ranked Cowboys.
“He made some great throws in that game,” Pelini said. “He showed what we knew he was capable of doing. He can hurt you with his feet, he can hurt you with his arm.”
Niles Paul caught nine passes for 131 yards, the best numbers by a Husker receiver all season. All three of Brandon Kinnie’s receptions went for touchdowns. Kyler Reed and Tyler Legate also had TD catches. Mike McNeill added a season-best five receptions.
More than anything, Martinez was able to find a rhythm — and even declined some chances to scramble in favor of taking one more look downfield and throwing.
“I think he started on kind of a roll and kept going,” McNeill said. “We said all year Taylor can pass the ball well. And after this kind of game, where he had a lot of attempts and a lot of pass completions, people are starting to realize that.”
The Huskers’ passing game led them through what might have been the most important stretch of the game. After falling behind 27-24, Nebraska produced a touchdown on its final possession of the first half and 10 points on its first two series of the second.
The 41-27 lead forced the Cowboys into a more predictable offensive state, OSU coach Mike Gundy said.
“That was the key,” Gundy said. “That made it a two-score game.”
Paul, who had a 100-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, added a 24-yard punt return before NU took over with 2:15 left before halftime. With the help of an OSU personal foul and a 33-yard pass from Martinez to McNeill, the Huskers eventually scored on a 9-yard pass from Martinez to Kinnie with 55 seconds left.
“That was a huge drive, especially knowing that we were going to get the ball to start the second half,” Pelini said. “I thought that was really big.”
Martinez then completed 7 of 10 passes for 115 yards as Nebraska pushed its lead from 31-27 to 41-27. The points came on a 32-yard field goal by Alex Henery and a 41-yard pass from Martinez to Reed.
Martinez, benched in the second half against Texas, had come back with his response.
“He grew up a lot,” NU lineman Jermarcus Hardrick said. “Coach even said on the sideline, ‘Martinez is growing up.’”
|Yards per carry||5.9||4.9|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Western Kentucky||Sept. 4|
|South Dakota State||Sept. 25|
|Kansas State||Oct. 7|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 23|
|Iowa State||Nov. 6|
|Texas A&M||Nov. 20|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Oct. 23. See them all »
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