A pass interference call guaranteed to generate controversy in the coming days will garner the headlines of every story about Nebraska’s 28-24 win over Michigan State, but Taylor Martinez’s tremendous play should be the takeaway.
The junior quarterback’s career has been a roller coaster. He quickly excelled to Heisman Trophy front runner before roaring down the tracks to constant derision. Virtually every facet of Martinez’s game was the target of derision, yet in 2012 Martinez is the engineer of a Rose Bowl run that gained strength on Saturday.
Despite its .500 record, Michigan state posed Nebraska a legitimate challenge. Sparty’s defense nearly compensated for an inconsistent offense in losses to Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State; it did compensate in a defeat of top 25 Boise State. Martinez had no such struggles against the Michigan State defense.
Martinez’s final touchdown is the surefire story from Saturday’s game. A pass interference call that will be analyzed, scrutinized and broken down in every way imaginable set up the Cornhuskers at the Michigan State five-yard line. Martinez struck for this fourth score, and the decisive touchdown, overshadowing scores on end zone scampers of 35 and 71 yards.
It’s no deviation from the rest of this season for Martinez. Nebraska sits atop an increasingly disregarded heap in the Big Ten Conference. The Cornhuskers’ emergence as the league front runner is overshadowed by the Big Ten’s overall struggles, thereby overshadowing the high level of performance Martinez has maintained throughout the season.
He had a three-interception day against Michigan, his second such outing of the season. Yet, Martinez ends the afternoon with 18 touchdowns to eight interceptions — a respectable tally, especially for a quarterback disregarded as an inept passer. He more than compensated for today’s three interceptions with 224 yards rushing, bringing his season total over 7000 yards. Martinez is in position to eclipse 2000 yards and 1000 rushing.
Nebraska’s faced adversity this season, losing star running back Rex Burkhead and addressing wildly inconsistent play from its once vaunted defense. Yet, the Cornhuskers are in line for the program’s first BCS bowl appearance in over a decade. Martinez is the reason.