Nebraska QB Martinez has highest goal for Huskers
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)
That would be a giant step for Nebraska, which last played for a national title after the 2001 season, losing to Miami 37-14 in the Rose Bowl.
Nebraska hasn't won a conference championship since 1999, losing Big 12 title games the last two years it was in the league. Picked as one of the favorites to play in last year's inaugural Big Ten championship, the Huskers fell short, finishing 5-3 in the league and just third in the Legends Division.
With fall camp starting Saturday, most of the talk from Nebraska was about winning a conference title. Martinez raised that another level.
''If we win that (the Big Ten),'' he said, ''we'll go to the national championship.''
Martinez's goal reflects new confidence from the junior quarterback, who has been the subject of much fan and media criticism. He is now in the second year of an offensive system for the first time and tight end Ben Cotton said Martinez's increased confidence has been apparent during summer workouts.
''It comes with being the second year in the offense,'' Cotton said. ''It's a fun thing to see. Going through 7-on-7 all summer, he's just seeing his reads, sticking to his reads and getting the ball where it needs to go, whether it's deep downfield or in the backfield. He's doing a great job of getting the ball to the guy that's open and the guy that's going to gain yard and do positive things for us. I'm proud to say Taylor has come a long way.''
A second reason for Martinez's confidence: unlike last year, he's healthy.
''I was still hampered from my redshirt freshman year,'' Martinez said. ''I was still a little dinged up. Right now, this is the best I've felt since my redshirt freshman year.''
That, Martinez said, should take the restrictions off his running, allowing him to return to the explosive form he showed during his freshman season when he ran for 965 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Nebraska's second year in the Big Ten also is providing some of Martinez's confidence. Last season, he said, the Huskers had to adapt on the fly to defenses they had never seen, never had a chance to prepare for.
''A lot of defenses kind of switched up on us from early (in the season) early on in the games,'' Martinez said. ''We really didn't know how to prepare for them. We just knew our game plan. A lot of times when we went into a game, we had to change up our game plan. It was very difficult. This year we actually know what defenses are going to give us.''
Martinez worked with a quarterback coach this summer for the first time and attended the Manning quarterback academy. That offseason work on his skills and the familiarity with the offense should help Martinez reach another goal: completing 70 percent of his passes.
''I'm capable of doing that every game if they give me the chance to,'' said Martinez, who completed 56 percent of his throws last year. ''I've proved that at Oklahoma State (in 2010), against Northwestern. ... I threw three picks at Wisconsin. Two were at the end of the half. I was passing well. It's just that one pick killed us.''
Martinez's teammates are as confident in him as Martinez appears to be in himself and his team.
''Taylor's made a lot of improvements,'' said wide receiver Tim Marlowe. ''We're all excited for him to show it off. I know he is too. He goes through a lot of criticism being the quarterback at Nebraska. But he was just a sophomore last year...I think it's going to be a great season for Taylor, both running and passing.''