Minnesota vs. Nebraska, 11.17.12

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez watches from the sideline during the fourth quarter against Minnesota at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012.

ERIC GREGORY/Lincoln Journal Star file photo

The easy, breeziness of it all was summed up when the HuskerVision cameras found Taylor Martinez, putting the quarterback front and center on the big screens to tell the crowd he had broken another school record.

Here was a man who had spent the past month looking for fourth-quarter magic to keep his team’s dreams for the season alive.

But this was a different kind of Saturday.

The only thing we saw from Martinez in this fourth quarter was a joking pageant wave and a blown kiss to the crowd when the cameras zoomed in on him.

Easy does it. The final was Nebraska 38, Minnesota 14. It was not even really that close.

“It was awesome,” Martinez said of a Saturday without drama. “We started out fast. I was really happy about that one.”

The stuff that occurred between the whistles will be forgotten in short order.

It was 38-0 by the time the fourth quarter began, and Husker coach Bo Pelini probably would have been just fine if the officials packed up the footballs and called it a day right then.

“That second half lasted about three years,” Pelini said jokingly. “Maybe it was just me.”

No, it sure wasn’t.

It is a day that will be most remembered for Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne helping Pelini lead the team out of the tunnel and onto the field.

“The most emotional moment of the season for me,” running backs coach Ron Brown said of the send-off for Osborne, who opened the door to Brown as a Husker assistant back in 1987.

There were no doubt a few "seasonal allergies" going around Memorial Stadium when Osborne made that familiar jog with the team behind him.

And Martinez and company quickly made sure that Osborne’s final home game connected with Husker athletics would end like so many of those Saturdays when T.O. was wearing a headset.

The Nebraska quarterback was sharp from the outset. Even with the wind doing its best to interfere, he connected on 21 of 29 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns.

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said his team simply didn’t have an answer for Martinez.

“You could tell this is an older quarterback that has been through the system,” Kill said. “Give Nebraska credit. Out of the teams I have seen, they are the one team that is improving on a weekly basis. They are an awfully good team."

Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner were Martinez’s favorite targets.

He connected with Bell nine times for 136 yards, including touchdowns of 36 and 30 yards. He found Turner six times for 83 yards.

On a day when Nebraska honored 29 seniors, Husker fans could take satisfaction in the fact Martinez and those receivers have another year together to play pitch and catch.

In the process, Martinez set the school record for career passing yards, moving ahead of Zac Taylor in the first quarter. Already the record-holder for most yards in Nebraska history, Martinez has now thrown for 6,140 yards.

“It’s awesome, because there are so many great quarterbacks that have gone through here,” Martinez said.

It wasn’t just the offense that rolled Saturday. The Husker defense did its part in dominating for three quarters.

Before the fourth quarter began and Nebraska began substituting freely, the Gophers had just 102 of their 177 yards of offense. Minnesota finished the game just 1-of-13 on third down.

“It felt pretty good, but that’s what we’re expected to do,” said safety P.J. Smith.

One of the seniors playing in his final home game, Smith admitted it was an emotional experience taking the field at Memorial Stadium for a final time.

“It was tough all week just thinking about it,” Smith said. “But good things have got to come to an end at some point. Not many folks can say they sent the season off right.”

Nebraska will try to do just that over the next two weeks, starting with Friday’s game at Iowa. A win and the Huskers lock up the Legends Division title and an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.

While this Husker team knows there is still more out there to gain, it did achieve one significant accomplishment Saturday.

Nebraska finished its first undefeated season at home since 2001.

“That’s special right there, but I was saying this yesterday, this team is special,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we don’t finish the season off right. That’s how it goes right there. It felt good to finish off undefeated at home, but we’ve got another game. And after that, we’ve got another one. And after that, we’ve got another one. So we better keep going.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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