MANHATTAN, Kan. — For all the emotion that surrounded Nebraska’s final trip to Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the bad feelings and screaming in the stands, the Huskers settled this Thursday night clash with the one element that has so far defined their football season: the game-breaking ability of Taylor Martinez.
Martinez simply stole the show, leading NU to a 48-13 win over Kansas State as the Huskers embarked on their Big 12 farewell tour.
The redshirt freshman zapped an energized crowd of 51,015, accounting for five touchdowns — two during an electrifying third quarter on an 80-yard run and a 79-yard throw to tight end Kyler Reed.
“We came out really motivated,” Martinez said. “You guys could tell.”
Martinez, after committing three turnovers in his worst game on Sept. 25 against South Dakota State, rebounded with a 369-yard night before a national TV audience, the highest total-offense output by a freshman in NU history.
He rushed for 241 yards on 15 attempts — a QB record at Nebraska and the most by a Husker since Calvin Jones ran for 294 in 1991. Martinez scored on runs of 14, 35, 80 and 41 yards. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 128 yards and played turnover-free.
“It’s amazing,” NU I-back Rex Burkhead said. “He can make a big play any time he gets the ball. He’s a Heisman candidate. Mention his name with Denard Robinson.”
And with that, let’s talk Texas. Sixth- and seventh-ranked Nebraska survived its five-game prelude to the Longhorns’ Oct. 16 visit to Memorial Stadium with an unscathed mark. Unranked UT, of course, hasn't done its part, losing two straight, but it’s going to get wild next week in Lincoln.
Thursday night assured it.
Nebraska extended its winning streak over K-State to six games. It snapped the personal, four-game streak of K-State wins here under coach Bill Snyder. The Huskers (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) also won a sixth straight Big 12 road game and served notice that the North Division title, in this last year before NU bolts to the Big Ten, goes through Lincoln.
In the 95th and perhaps final meeting in this century-old series, it all, apparently, came so easily for Martinez. He started with the shortest of his TD runs, despite bobbling the shotgun snap from Mike Caputo, after Martinez fired a 24-yard strike to Mike McNeill on the Huskers’ opening possession.
“People asked me at the beginning of the season: ‘What does he bring to the running game?’” I-back Roy Helu said. “It’s that.”
Kansas State (4-1, 1-1) stayed close for most of the first half. Martinez’s 35-yard scoring run made it 14-3 with 3:54 left in the second quarter. After a quick K-State punt, he came right back on his next carry to gain 54 yards, leading to an Alex Henery field goal from 39 yards to make it 17-3 at the half.
That was just the start. On the third snap of the second half, Martinez burst through the middle on a draw for 80 yards. Sound familiar? He went 80 on the first play of the second half last month against Washington.
“This is kind of like what he does in practice — not every day, but a lot,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “As I’m getting to know this kid, he is an unbelievable competitor, and he has tremendous pride.”
The next time NU got the ball, Helu darted for 68 yards — a career long — to make it 31-3 just 3½ minutes after halftime.
Snyder waved his arms in disgust as Helu raced past the KSU sideline. It was that kind of a night for the Wildcats, who had entered this showdown of unbeatens with high hopes and a score to settle after NU announced its plans four months ago to leave the Big 12.
Venom flowed through the radio airwaves across Kansas on Thursday. Direct your anger at the deserters from Nebraska, fans heard. It never materialized, thanks to Martinez, who capped his big night with a 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Again, K-State couldn't get a hand on the speedy signal caller from Corona, Calif.
“He’s got to keep working to get better,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “And if he does, you can see, he’s a pretty talented young man.”
Everything worked well on Thursday, said Martinez, who directed the Huskers to 587 yards of offense and 451 rushing. So how does he do it?
“I just do what I can do,” he said. “Make plays.”
According to Watson, it all grew clear on the day after the South Dakota State game, a 17-3 NU win. The coached watched tape of the game with Martinez. Then they watched it again.
Martinez was disgusted.
“He came back in and told me, ‘Coach, I promise you, I’ll fix it,’” Watson said. “‘I’m fixing it.’ And he fixed it tonight, man.”
|Yards per carry||4.1||10.7|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas 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. 7. See them all »
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