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Despite late fumble Saturday, Husker QB Martinez is 'heart and soul of this team'
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Despite late fumble Saturday, Husker QB Martinez is 'heart and soul of this team'

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Michigan vs. Nebraska, 10.9

Nebraska's Adrian Martinez (left) and Damion Daniels walk off the field after the Huskers' 32-29 loss to Michigan on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Turner Corcoran didn’t mince words when asked about his quarterback.

Nebraska’s young tackle fielded a question about junior Adrian Martinez, the Huskers’ three-time captain, who accounted for 204 yards and four second-half touchdowns before fumbling with 1 minute, 45 seconds remaining against Michigan, setting up the Wolverines’ winning field goal.

“Typically as a quarterback, you don’t find them to be very tough people, but he is one tough son-of-a-b----, if I’m being straightforward,” Corcoran said Monday. “He’s the heart and soul of our offense. He’s the heart and soul of this team. I believe that he is the guy to do the job for our offense.

“He’s a fantastic guy, he’s a fantastic leader and you know, whenever there’s a little bit of blame, you know he’s going to take it and he’s going to take it on the chin. That’s who he is. He’s a man and he’s going to take it.”

Martinez, apprised of the comment a short time later, smiled and said he appreciated the support.

“That’s a really high compliment coming from him and just in general,” Martinez said. “(Head coach Scott) Frost had said something to the team, you know, do you want to be remembered as a tough player? That is probably one of the highest compliments you can receive from your peer, so that definitely means a lot.”

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The Fresno, California, native engineered all four of the Huskers’ second-half scoring drives on Saturday night against the No. 9 Wolverines. He made several big plays, including a 20-yard dash on third-and-11 that immediately preceded NU’s first score of the night, a 46-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Austin Allen.

At the end, though, the fumble was crucial and he had chances to make a couple of plays on the Huskers’ final drive of the night, too. As such, the criticism of Martinez’s play that followed the game echoed loudly.

“I see a leader. I see someone who has complete control of this team and this offense. He’s a guy that people look to and he never disappoints when it comes to that. He's the quarterback at Nebraska. He gets a lot of criticism, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone deal with criticism the way he does. He doesn’t let it get to him. He takes the good with the bad and he’s always moving forward.

“That’s something I think a lot of people can learn from.”

Martinez said he thinks the trials and tribulations that he’s seen over the course of his 34 starts here have put him in position to handle the continued spotlight that comes with operating in close game after close game under the microscope.

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“I think all of the combined experiences from the past years and sort of the work I’ve done off the field to be where I’m at now has helped me sort of handle the whole deal and turn into the player that I’ve wanted to become,” he said.

The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder is having, statistically, his best season so far. He’s second in the Big Ten in total offense at 314.9 yards per game, already has a career-best 10 rushing touchdowns (a mark that leads the conference) and is averaging a career-best 9.9 yards per passing attempts (his previous best was 7.8 in 2019) on 66.3% completions.

After his second straight four-touchdown outing and fifth of his career, Martinez has generated 19 touchdowns so far this season and turned the ball over six times.

The giveaways, though, have come in critical moments like a scoop-and-score fumble just before halftime against Illinois, a fourth-quarter fumble and an overtime interception against Michigan State and, of course, the fumble on a first-down run against the Wolverines.

Martinez, though, clearly has the full support of his teammates and coaches.

“Adrian is a warrior and he’s an unbelievable player,” Frost said Saturday night after the game.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Husker football reporter

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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