Martinez, Nebraska rolls Washington 56-21By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer Sep 18, 8:44 pm EDT
SEATTLE (AP)—Every Nebraska fan and probably most of the players were wondering how Taylor Martinez would do in his first road start as the Cornhuskers’ quarterback.
So before No. 8 Nebraska kicked off against Washington, Huskers tight end Mike McNeill figured he might as well ask the redshirt freshman, “are you nervous?”
If he was, it didn’t show.
Fearless and confident, Martinez ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns— including the longest TD run by a freshman in Nebraska history—threw for another 150 yards and a score and the eighth-ranked Cornhuskers overwhelmed Washington 56-21 on Saturday.
“I just don’t get scared or nervous at all,” Martinez said.
Martinez scored on a pair of 1-yard runs and went 80 yards for a TD on the first play of the second half. Roy Helu Jr. added 110 yards and touchdown runs of 65 and 8 yards and the Cornhuskers ran for 383 yards against the Huskies’ manhandled defense.
Rex Burkhead added 104 yards and a 19-yard score in the fourth quarter. It was the first time Washington has allowed three 100-yard rushers in history.
“I was asking him before the game, ‘are you nervous?”’ said McNeill, who caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Martinez. “And he said, ‘you’re more nervous than I am.’ I think the kid just has ice water in his veins.
“He’s Taylor. He’s confident. He’s ready to go. There’s nothing that phases him.”
While Martinez was tormenting the Washington defense, Jake Locker was slogging through the worst game of his career, on a day the Huskies needed him to be Heisman-worthy to have a chance.
Earlier this week, Nebraska safety Ricky Thenarse said the goal was making Locker prove he was worthy of all his accolades.
Locker failed. He wasn’t even average.
“I didn’t really hook up with anybody,” Locker said. “I just think they did a really good job within their defense and I tried to force a few balls when I could have dropped it down to other guys. A lot of factors didn’t allow us to be really consistent in the passing game today.”
Pressured by the Cornhuskers’ front, and unable to find receivers breaking open against Nebraska’s aggressive secondary, Locker made mistake after mistake. He finished 4 of 20 for 71 yards and two interceptions, but added 59 yards rushing and a touchdown. His best throw of the day came on Washington first possession of the second half, a 45-yard touchdown toss to Jermaine Kearse.
That was it. Forget the Heisman, Locker was clearly not the best quarterback on the field Saturday.
“Besides the blown coverage we had … I think he had like 30 yards passing,” Nebraska safety DeJon Gomes said. “I think that’s a pretty good day if you ask me.”
Nebraska (3-0) led 28-14 at halftime. On the first play of the second half, Washington’s defense collapsed on the dive fake, leaving Martinez clear to run through an arm tackle and sprint for the score.
Washington (1-2) never got closer than 14 and the 56 points tied the most ever allowed by the Huskies at home.
“I know we’re a better football team than what we put on the field today in all three phases,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I know we can tackle better than that. I know we can throw the football better than that and I know we can protect the quarterback better than that.”
While Locker was busy falling out of the Heisman race, Martinez might have inserted himself. After cleaning up on Western Kentucky and Idaho at home to begin his career, he took his show on the road and made a statement about the Cornhuskers place in the Big 12. The Huskers might just be at the top of the heap.
Locker’s first pass of the day was woefully underthrown and Eric Hagg darted in front of the poor pass, the first turnover of the season for Locker.
It took Nebraska two plays—both for 24 yards—to take the lead, with Martinez throwing to McNeill for a TD. Martinez added a 1-yard plunge after hitting Brandon Kinnie for 55 yards on the Cornhuskers second possession.
But Martinez’s best throw of the day came early in the second quarter. Washington had closed to 14-7 and the Cornhuskers faced third-and-16 at their 49. Given time to throw, Martinez found Niles Paul for 21 yards and three plays later Helu scored the first of his two touchdowns.
“I told Taylor ‘I thought you served a little notice today,’ because when I was recruiting him there were some Pac-10 coaches scoffing at the idea we were recruiting him as a quarterback,” Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said.
Washington cut the lead to 21-14 after backup quarterback Cody Green entered for one series and promptly fumbled at the Nebraska 17.
Martinez re-entered and the Cornhuskers run game rolled off 13 straight run plays for 208 yards and three touchdowns at the end of the second and beginning of the third quarters. After Washington finally forced a Nebraska punt, Locker was intercepted for the second time with Alfonzo Dennard returning the interception 31 yards for a score.
“There’s still a lot more out there for us, there’s still a lot for us to clean up,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “We have a long way to go, but this was a good step along the way.”