Everyone from Lincoln was undoubtedly hurting last Saturday when their Nebraska Cornhuskers got whipped by the Wisconsin Badgers 48-17. It was a tough, season-changing defeat and one that the Huskers will need to heavily analyze in an effort to right the ship.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was clearly a huge reason for the loss. He threw three interceptions. He looked sloppy from the second quarter on forward. He didn’t make good decisions. He let the team get smacked around by Russell Wilson and his burly offensive line.
None of that, however, warrants the abuse that he has reportedly been taking in the subsequent days. According to a recent piece by Sam McKewon in The Omaha World Herald, Martinez and his girlfriend have been harassed and critiqued by annoyed fans who have criticized the quarterback’s play at the most inopportune of times in the worst of places – at school.
McKewon recounted what senior left tackle Yoshi Hardrick said on the matter after a recent practice:
"It finally hit him," Hardrick said. "He'd been holding in a lot. He said he couldn't take it anymore. ... It's the first time I've ever seen him, like, mad.
"Some girl told him: 'Stop throwing interceptions,'" Hardrick said. "It's just too much. He's in a Spanish class and they're talking about interceptions."
Hardrick also pointed out that Martinez’s girlfriend catches a lot of undeserved flack as well, for no reason other than her obvious link to the program’s offensive leader.
"He told me he's sick of it," Hardrick said. "These next seven games, he just wants the world to get off his back, so he had to do something about it.
"He's trying to keep everybody happy, trying to keep everybody upbeat. He's not holding his head down. He's trying do the extra things and be a lot better on his passing. He's trying to go through his extra reads."
Although pay-for-play scandals usually take the cake as the worst and most seedy parts of college football, this type of harassment that kids like Martinez have to take on a daily basis is definitely another black mark on the whole thing. It’s one thing to boo or come out against the quarterback’s play at the game or at rallies; however, to pester him in class is simply unbecoming of any fans – particularly fans as ardently loyal as Husker fans tend to be.
Martinez is what he is, there is no changing that. He’ll try his best to right the ship over the course of the next few games, but there is nothing to be gained by building up unrealistic expectations.
The worst thing that can be done, though, is forgetting that at the end of the day – it’s just college football. And, similarly, Martinez is still just a 21-year-old trying to grow up with the eyes of Lincoln all over him.
Regardless of what ends up happening throughout the rest of the 2011 season, fans and students of Nebraska owe it to the legacy and standards in place to behave like good, quality members of the community, and not needlessly harass players that don’t live up to their lofty expectations.