Stats & Info: Taylor Martinez

Ole Miss offense could test Tide streak

September, 27, 2012
1. Heading into its game this week at No. 1 Alabama, Ole Miss is scoring nearly 37 points per game. Therefore, the Rebels might be a test for a Tide defense that has allowed a total of three touchdowns in its last nine games against SEC competition.

Ole Miss was one of the teams that managed a single TD against the Tide defense last year; Florida and Mississippi State were the others. What's amazing is that Alabama doesn't even have the SEC's longest active streak of allowing no more than one TD to a conference opponent's offense. After last weekend's game against Auburn, LSU has now done that in 11 consecutive games.

2. Connor Shaw missed on his first pass of the game last week against Missouri but then completed his last 20 pass attempts. With four more consecutive completions, he'll tie Tennessee's Tee Martin in 1998 for the longest SEC streak of consecutive completions. Martin's streak was the national record for 13 years until East Carolina's Dominique Davis (36 straight completions) broke it last year.

How do Shaw's odds look against Kentucky, his opponent this weekend? Only once in its last 19 games has Kentucky allowed a passer to complete four straight to start a game. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater did it against the Wildcats in the season opener this year. And Shaw will have to top his performance from last year against Kentucky. In that game, Shaw threw an incompletion on his second pass attempt.

3. Michigan State is looking to win consecutive games with Ohio State after beating the Buckeyes last year 10-7 in Columbus. Ohio State has not lost back-to-back meetings with a conference opponent since Wisconsin beat the Buckeyes in 2003 and 2004.

That Ohio State streak of eight years without consecutive losses to any conference opponent is the longest active streak among BCS-AQ conference teams. Ohio State has played 62 Big Ten games since losing those two straight to Wisconsin. If Michigan State can’t break the streak this week, Nebraska will have a chance to end it next week when it meets Ohio State in Columbus.

4. Taylor Martinez is completing 56 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or more downfield this season. Martinez completed less 40 percent of such throws in each of his first two seasons as a starter.

Why is this improvement important? The Cornhuskers are 7-0 against AQ-opponents when Martinez completes at least half of his 15-yard throws and 4-9 when he does not, including last season’s loss to Wisconsin. Martinez finished that game with as many interceptions (three) as completions on 15-yard throws. It is his only career game with multiple interceptions on such throws.

5. This past weekend, Arkansas became the first preseason top-10 team since 2000 Alabama to pick up a third loss by the end of September. This weekend against former SWC rival – and new SEC rival – Texas A&M, the Razorbacks can join an even more exclusive club of futility.

With a loss, Arkansas would join the 1984 Pittsburgh Panthers as the only preseason top-10 teams to have four losses by the end of September. The 1984 Panthers began 0-4 after being ranked third in the preseason poll and finished the season 3-7-1.
No. 7 Wisconsin hosted No. 8 Nebraska in the Cornhuskers’ first Big Ten game Saturday night. In the first meeting between the two teams since 1974, the Badgers scored 34 straight points spanning the second and third quarters on their way to a 48-17 victory.

Nebraska loses to a Big Ten team for just the second time in its past 14 tries. Its last loss to a Big Ten team came in 2002 at Penn State.

Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson continued to have success throwing downfield against the Blackshirts defense.

He completed two-thirds of his attempts that traveled 15 or more yards from the line of scrimmage, including touchdowns of 36 and 46 yards in the second quarter.

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez couldn't match that success -- he recorded his first career three-interception game Saturday and all three picks were on throws 15 or more yards downfield.

That opened up space for Montee Ball, who tied a career high with four rush touchdowns. He did that twice last season, both times in Big Ten play.

So far this season, Wisconsin has outscored its opponents by a combined 191 points and has yet to win by fewer than 30 points.

The plus-191 point differential is better than any of the past five BCS National Champions through their first five games.

Since 2000, Nebraska is 2-16 against top-10 teams (1-6 under Bo Pelini), allowing more than 33 PPG, while scoring fewer than 20. Eleven of those 16 losses have come by double digits including six by at least 20 points.

They haven't won a road game against a top-10 team since beating Washington 27-14 on September 20, 1997.

Martinez and Robinson look for separation

August, 22, 2011

Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images
Nebraska's Taylor Martinez was named the 2010 Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

The Big Ten Legends Division features two of the nation’s most electrifying quarterbacks in the Nebraska Cornhuskers' Taylor Martinez and the Michigan Wolverines' Denard Robinson. The two were recently named to the 2011 Maxwell Award Watch List. The award is given out each season to college football’s most outstanding player. Being named to the same list is just another similarity in two careers that seem to run parallel.

Their similarities start with the way they play football. Martinez and Robinson can beat defenses with both their feet and their arms. Last season, they were two of five players in FBS to pass for 1,500+ yards and rush for 900+ yards. When they get into the open field, both exhibit a top gear that few players can match. Among quarterbacks no one had more rushes of 20+ yards than Robinson (16) and Martinez (15) last season.

Their careers as starting quarterbacks began in an eerily similarly way. After sitting behind fellow freshmen Tate Forcier in 2009, Robinson was named the starter just before the kickoff of his sophomore season. He did not wait long to make national headlines. He ran for 258 yards and passed for 244 in Week 2 against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Then three games later, he duplicated the feat against the Indiana Hoosiers, becoming the first player in FBS history to pass for 200+ yards and rush for 200+ yards in a game twice during the regular season.

Martinez faced similar circumstances. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini publicly gave him the nod over incumbent Zac Lee 30 minutes before the season opener. Just like Robinson, Martinez burst onto the national landscape. In his first seven collegiate games, he ran for 12 touchdowns and threw for nine more. His 124.3 rushing yards per game during that stretch was ninth best in the FBS. Only Robinson and Cam Newton averaged more among quarterbacks. After nine weeks of the season, Martinez led the FBS with 14 rushes of 20+ yards. Seven of these runs went for touchdowns, also tops in the FBS.

Both players’ hot starts would temper off. Martinez suffered a lower-leg injury against the Missouri Tigers on October 30. He was forced to miss two games, and rushed for just 95 yards combined in his final five games. The Cornhuskers finished 2-3 in Martinez’s final five starts after starting the year 7-1. Michigan also struggled down the stretch, finishing 2-6 after a 5-0 start. Robinson saw his touchdown to interception ratio go from 7-1 in the first five games to 11-10 over the last eight.

This season brings yet another similarity. Robinson and Martinez will have to adjust to new play callers. Michigan and Nebraska are both replacing their offensive coordinators. Michigan hired Al Borges, who was the offensive coordinator at Auburn from 2004-07 and most recently at San Diego State Aztecs under current Michigan coach Brady Hoke. Nebraska promoted Tim Beck, its running backs coach for the last three seasons, to offensive coordinator.

Finally, Martinez (T-Magic) and Robinson (Shoelace) have two of the most recognizable nicknames in college football.

As their careers continue to run a similar course, we might have to wait until their meeting on November 19 in Ann Arbor to finally see separation and a possible leading candidate for the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Martinez key to Nebraska's Big Ten hopes

July, 1, 2011
Nebraska enters 2011, its inaugural campaign in the Big Ten, with high hopes of a conference championship.

The Cornhuskers were ranked 13th in the College Football Live Preseason Poll, second to only Ohio State among Big Ten schools. They return several starters from last year's 10-win team , including seven from the FBS' ninth-ranked scoring defense.

Still, the key to 2011 lies in the performance of quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Martinez took the nation by storm at the start of the 2010 season. In his first seven collegiate games, Martinez ran for 12 touchdowns and threw for nine more. His 124.3 rushing yards per game during that stretch was ninth best in the FBS. Only Denard Robinson and Cam Newton averaged more among quarterbacks.

Martinez's game was speed and a quick burst that allowed him to gain separation from defenses. Before November began, he led the FBS with 14 rushes of 20+ yards. Seven of these runs went for touchdowns, which was also tops in the FBS.

With his stellar start to the year, Martinez went from an unknown redshirt freshmen to a Heisman Trophy candidate. He helped spark Nebraska to a 7-1 start in which the Cornhuskers averaged 458.5 total yards per game, 17th best in the FBS.

Unfortunately, Martinez suffered a lower-leg injury during the first half of Nebraska's win over Missouri on Oct. 30. From that point on, he and Nebraska were never the same. In the six games that followed Martinez's injury, the Cornhuskers averaged 317.7 yards per game (95th most in FBS) and finished with a 3-3 record.

Over his final five games of the season -- he sat out one game vs Iowa State -- Martinez was only able to rush for a combined 95 yards on just 1.5 yards per carry. With his quickness advantage somewhat neutralized, he managed just one run of over 20 yards during that stretch.

The decline in Martinez's running output also took a toll on his passing game. Following the Missouri game, he threw for just one touchdown and had four interceptions.

The biggest difference was his play-action passing. Through his first eight contests he threw five touchdowns and zero interceptions, while averaging over 15 yards per attempt on play action passes. During his freshman season, half of Martinez's touchdown passes came after a run-fake, yet none occurred after his injury against Missouri.

Nebraska's play-action became ineffective as defenses no longer had to stack the line against the Cornhusker's potent zone read attack. Martinez's completion percentage dropped below 40 percent on play action pass attempts over his last five games.

When it comes to Martinez's impact on the Cornhuskers the numbers don't lie. Nebraska was 7-0 last season when he ran for more than 50 yards and 8-0 when he had at least 125 combined passing and rushing yards. They went 0-4 when he did not.
A statistical preview of the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (ESPN, 10 ET) between the No. 18 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Washington Huskies.

Entering Nebraska’s game against Missouri on October 30, Taylor Martinez led the country with 14 rushes of 20 yards or more. However, during the first half of the Missouri game, Martinez suffered a leg injury and he has not been the same when his number is called to rush the ball.

Since that game, he has not had a 20-yard rush and his per-rush average, not including QB sneaks, is less than half of what it was before the injury.

But the Huskers can turn to running back Roy Helu Jr. for big plays on the ground. Helu has seven runs of 50 yards or more this season, all resulting in a touchdown, making him one of the most explosive rushers in the college game.

Only one other player in the country -- LaMichael James of Oregon -- has more than four such runs this season. And since 2004, only Ryan Mathews has posted at least seven 50-yard touchdown rushes in a single season.

When Washington has the ball, they’d do best to stay away from third down altogether. When the two teams met in September, Huskies quarterback Jake Locker completed just one of his seven third-down passes for six yards, and Nebraska has been tough on third down all season.

The vaunted Blackshirts defense was first in the country this season in opponents’ completion percentage on third down, and was second in opponents’ yards per attempt and pass efficiency.

There wasn’t a lot that went right for him in the September matchup, but Locker will have to be better throwing from the pocket this time around for Washington to have any chance.

Locker completed two of his 15 passes from inside the pocket when the teams met earlier this season and actually ended up with a negative pass efficiency.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are now 5-0 for the first time since 2003 following their 48-13 win at Kansas State.

Taylor Martinez rushed 241 rushing yards, the most in school history by a quarterback. He also tied a school record for quarterbacks with four rushing touchdowns.

Martinez is the third player this season (along with Temple's Matt Brown and Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter) to rush for 200 yards and have four rushing TDs in a game. He now has 12 rushing touchdowns, which leads all of FBS.

Martinez now has 737 rushing yards in five games this season. That's fourth-most in a single season by a Nebraska freshman. He's also averaging 10.8 yards per rush -- the single-season school record (minimum 100 rushes) is 8.3 by Calvin Jones in 1991. Martinez has 68 rushing attempts this season.

Historically, a 5-0 start usually translates to a successful season for the Cornhuskers. This is the 12th time since 1990 that Nebraska has started at least 5-0. In five of those years, the Cornhuskers won three Big 8 titles (1993-95) and two more in the Big 12 (1997, 1999). Nebraska has also played for the national championship five times, winning three.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers stock is rising while Jake Locker's NFL stock may be falling.

The Cornhuskers rushed for 383 yards and netted 533 total yards as eighth-ranked Nebraska won 56-21 over the Washington Huskies. Taylor Martinez had 150 yards passing, 137 yards rushing and four total TD. The 56 points were the most by the Cornhuskers away from the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium since the 2000 Alamo Bowl.

One of the staples of past Nebraska teams was its ability to rush the football. From 1994 to 2001 Nebraska won the nation's rushing title five times, leading to three National Championships. However, the past five seasons Nebraska has finished no better than 23rd in the nation in rushing.

This year it appears the Cornhuskers are getting back to their roots. Entering Saturday, Nebraska was third in the nation in rushing at 324 rush yards per game. In their win over the Huskies, three Cornhuskers had over 100 yards rushing -- Taylor Martinez (137), Roy Helu Jr. (110) and Rex Burkhead (104). It's fourth time in school history Nebraska has had at least three players rush for more than 100 yards in the same game. The last time prior to Saturday's game was in 2001 against the Baylor Bears when they had four players accomplish the feat. The total damage inflicted by the Cornhuskers on the ground: 383 rushing yards.

Meanwhile, it was a game to forget for Heisman candidate Jake Locker, who many experts say could be the top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and who might have been the number-one pick last year had he not stayed in school. Locker completed just four of 20 passes for 71 yards with 2 interceptions. His 20.0 completion percentage is tied for the third worst by a QB with a minimum of 20 attempts over the last six seasons.

In his college career, Locker has won just three times against ranked opponents (USC and California last year and Boise State in 2007). But he's also lost 12 times against ranked opponents as well. Saturday was also the eighth time in Locker's career at Washington in which he's thrown multiple interceptions in a game. The Huskies have never won any of those eight games.