On a crisp, fall afternoon in Nebraska, over a year of frustrations melted away inside Memorial Stadium.
There were dicey moments, but for the most part Scott Frost’s first win at Nebraska, and the program’s first win in 357 days, came relatively easy. That was mainly due to one freshman who had yet another memorable performance in his young collegiate career.
After the game, Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck spoke about how his team lacks the playmakers to fit his system, and how it’s hurting his program at this time. At Nebraska, Frost does not have the same issue.
There’s a reason one of Frost’s first moves as Nebraska’s head coach was to pay true freshman Adrian Martinez a visit. Despite missing his entire senior season recovering from a shoulder injury, it was clear to Frost the 18-year-old had the skill set he wanted at the quarterback season. On Saturday afternoon, those skills were on full display.
The true freshman led Nebraska to its first victory of the season by throwing for 276 yards and three touchdowns, and also by running for 125 yards and another touchdown. He completed 25-29 pass attempts and was nearly perfect, save for fumbling a handoff in the first half.
Minnesota also started a true freshman, walk-on Zack Annexstad. In no way, shape or form was he Adrian Martinez. Minnesota’s freshman completed just 9-20 pass attempts for 135 yards and a touchdown, and was hospitalized before the game ended with internal injuries. He was released from the hospital shortly after the game.
Not only did Martinez put up gaudy numbers, but he did so in a timely manner. In the first half, he never took his foot off the gas and pushed the offense out to a 28-0 lead. To put that in perspective, Nebraska had scored 28 points or less in each of its first five games of the season.
The win wasn’t a complete cakewalk, though. With Annexstad hospitalized, backup quarterback Tanner Morgan sparked Minnesota’s offense, and within the blink of an eye, the score was 28-22. It had an eerily similar feeling to some of the other blown leads throughout the season.
But this time, Martinez had a response.
On the ensuing possession, he drove the Huskers down the field quickly on a four-play drive, capping it off with a touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan Jr., followed by another one to the senior on the two-point conversion attempt. Minnesota countered, but its drive ran out of gas near the goal line and Nebraska took over again, this time with a chance to end the game.
Unlike last week at Northwestern, Martinez was up to the challenge. He led a 14-play, 82-yard drive that ended in a field goal to put the Huskers up 17. More importantly, the drive took seven minutes off of the clock and erased any momentum the Gophers still had.
Martinez didn’t stop there, either. After a turnover and two rushing attempts, he fooled the defense on third down and hit Morgan in stride for a 60-yard touchdown pass that sealed the game, and his first win of the season.
Finally shedding their losing ways, the Huskers grew up on Saturday. They made the plays teams have to make to win games. They forced turnovers, they made critical stops on third and fourth down and they scored when they absolutely needed to. That hasn’t been the case around Nebraska in a while.
The fans rewarded the Huskers for their progress, too. Very rarely is Memorial Stadium still full when the score is 53-28, but most fans stayed until the end and gave Frost and the Huskers a loud ovation, once again voicing their support for him despite the early struggles.
Up next is Bethune-Cookman, and Nebraska has a chance to have a winning streak for the first time since last September. One week later the Huskers have to play at Ohio State and the Buckeyes will be yet another measuring stick for the rapidly improving Huskers. After the game, Fleck called Nebraska’s offense the best he’s faced all season. This is one week after his Gophers lost 30-14 at Ohio State.
The record next to Nebraska may say 1-6, but the Huskers are growing up fast.