Coming out of the Nebraska Cornhuskers' 48-17 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers last weekend, Taylor Martinez suddenly (once again) found himself on the wrong end of most of the criticism directed towards the team. Never mind that head coach Bo Pelini and the rest of the coaching staff deserves their fair share of the blame. Never mind that the defense wasn’t up to stuff.
As usual, Martinez was the punching bag of choice for frustrated Nebraska fans – and it was totally warranted.
Look, everyone is allowed to have a bad game. Mistakes get made, balls get fumbled away, interceptions get thrown – that’s football. The problem, however, is that Martinez has a tendency of doing all three things at the least opportune of times. This (his erratic play) has literally become a trend in big, must-win games -- three losses in his last three games versus top-25 opponents -- and it’s something that he must overcome if his team wants to have any shot at a successful rest of the year.
After his latest loss, Martinez was forced to face the music, and his defensiveness while responding to reporters spoke volumes about his comfort level heading into next week’s showdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
"You guys rip me anyway, so it really doesn't matter," Martinez told reporters after being pressed on the criticism he garnered following his three-interception weekend showing.
Head coach, Pelini, took a more pragmatic approach in his responses.
"Let's face it, the quarterback position is always going to be under the microscope," Pelini said, when asked if he would consider going with backup Brion Carnes at any point this season. "Trust me, Taylor had a couple throws he'd like back the other night, a couple things he did he'd like back. When you look at what he's done over the bulk of the season, I'm glad he's our quarterback."
And Pelini wasn’t alone in defending his quarterback. Wide receiver Tim Marlowe had this to say on Martinez’s standing in the locker room:
"We'll follow Taylor any day. We know he's going to get after it this week," Marlowe said.
The team’s other big name receiver, Brandon Kinnie, also said he was confident in Martinez’s ability to lead the squad:
"Yeah, he's our guy. Heck, yeah. He's our quarterback, so we've got 100 percent faith in him, confidence in him, and he's going to take it with a chip on his shoulder.”
At the end of the day, everyone is right. Martinez is right to brush off the disparaging remarks about his play because, really, there’s nothing he can do about his past failures. The rest of the team, knowing that Martinez is their only viable option, is doing the right thing by supporting him and insisting that they believe in his ability to be a difference-maker.
This weekend’s game against Ohio State will be huge for Martinez. He’ll either prove that he’s a legitimate Big Ten quarterback who compensates for his flaws with some very unique strengths or, he’ll flounder with the weight of serious expectations on him yet again, and will only amplify the calls for his head among Husker faithful.