The Nebraska Cornhuskers finished the 2018 season with a (4-8) record in Scott Frost’s first season. The Huskers completed their third losing season in the last four years. They also missed a bowl game for the second year in a row. Furthermore, the Huskers haven’t won a Bowl game during a winning season since the win over the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2014 Gator Bowl. In case you were wondering, Bo Pelini was fired less than a year later and the Huskers have yet to gain the traction that they desperately seek.
Well, it’s boom or bust for the Huskers in 2019. While Frost is the head man running the program, it will be up to sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez to lead the Huskers back to prominence. If you ask around, Martinez seems to be a legend in the making for the rich tradition of Husker quarterbacks. However, Martinez only led the Huskers to four wins in his first collegiate season. That sounds like bad news for an underwhelming program. Yet, the Huskers did win 4 of their last 6 games to finish the season on a competitive note.
In reality, Martinez should be able to lead the Huskers to at least 11 wins next season. The Huskers lost 5 of their 8 games by single digits. In fact, a Martinez injury late in the season opener may have been the cause for such a rough start. After a weather related postponement, Martinez began his career a week later against former bitter rival Colorado Buffaloes. However, he was unable to finish the game and the Huskers were held scoreless in the fourth quarter of a 33-28 loss. As a result of the injury, Martinez was held out of their second game and the Huskers lost, 24-19 to the Troy Trojans.
Instead of potentially being (3-0) heading into their Big Ten opener, Nebraska came into conference play with the unenviable position of still trying to find themselves as a football team. They had a winless record with a freshman quarterback that had roughly played three quarters of football. Therefore, it was not surprising when the Michigan Wolverines absolutely demolished the Huskers, 56-10. It was the first of three straight blowout losses. The Huskers lost by a combined 77 points. That equates to 25.6 points per game. However, those scores seemed to be a blip the Huskers rectified in the second half of the year. The other five losses came by an average of 4.2 points per game.
In other words, the Cornhuskers are close to being where they want to be. If they are a couple of plays away from competing for Big Ten titles, Martinez has to be the player to make All American plays. Does he have to be first team All American next season? No. However, Martinez must perform at a Heisman finalists level in 2019.
As a freshman, Martinez threw for 2,617 passing yards in 11 games. He accounted for 17 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions, while completing over 64.5 percent of his pass attempts. Martinez can make plenty of spectacular throws and his yards per attempt should jump from the 7.5 average he produced last season,
Furthermore, Martinez might be the best running threat at quarterback (Hello Justin Fields) in the Big Ten. He rushed for 629 yards and 8 touchdowns during the freshman campaign. Kyler Murray ran for 335 yards in eight games for the Texas A&M Aggies as a freshman. Murray ran for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns during his lone starting season with the Oklahoma Sooners in 2018. They both accounted for 140 rushing attempts last season. Therefore, Martinez does not have to run more than he did last year. He just needs to produce more explosive plays in the ground attack.
When it comes down it, Martinez will be judged on two things. His effectiveness as a quarterback and how many wins the Huskers finish with. It won’t matter if Martinez accounts for 450 yards of offense if he fumbles or throws an interception on the final drive. Martinez has the ability to win big games. Now, he has to perform at that level on the field. Otherwise, it will be another long season for the Big Red.