Returning from injury, Nebraska’s Martinez experiences some growing pains in the Big House

September 24, 2018

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Everything went right for Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez on his first pass back from a knee injury that caused him to miss last week’s game against Troy.

Wide receiver Stanley Morgan broke free of Michigan’s coverage, and Martinez hit him for a 32-yard completion over the middle to the Wolverines’ 42-yard line in the first quarter. It was the kind of big play experts said Nebraska needed if it was going to upset Michigan.

Unfortunately, it was Nebraska’s first and last big play of the game.

The next play, Martinez’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Michigan safety Josh Metellus, and the Huskers never regained a foothold at Michigan Stadium.

[ PHOTOS: Check out a ton of images from Saturday’s game in Ann Arbor ]

“On that tip interception, if that had went a different way, it would have been different for us there in the game,” Martinez said. “I think we had a good shot at a touchdown if that ball goes through (to the receiver).”

Martinez finished the first half 7-of-15 for 22 yards and one interception. With Michigan up 39-0 at halftime, Nebraska coach Scott Frost played quarterback Andrew Bunch for much of the second half. Bunch finished 6-for-9 passing for 71 yards and no touchdowns. Michigan topped Nebraska 56-10.

“I talked to (Martinez) a bunch on the sideline, and I think our team needs to see what it looks like right now to play at that level,” Frost said after the game. “Adrian is going to be a great player at Nebraska for a long time. I hope he never experiences a day as rough as this one again.”

Still, Martinez had his moments. He converted a 3rd-and-14 with his legs, dodging and weaving through Michigan’s defense for the second-longest Huskers offensive play in the first half. Despite the brace on his right knee, he looked just as mobile as ever. But that drive stalled out, too.

“I didn’t do too many things well today to get anything good from it,” Martinez said. “I’m going to watch the film and learn what I can and move on.”

Here’s a snapshot of Nebraska’s bad start: With 8:58 to play in the first quarter, each team had run seven offensive plays. The Wolverines had 108 total yards and two touchdowns. The Huskers had 17 total yards and no touchdowns. It only got worse from there.

Nebraska’s 18th-ranked rushing attack stalled against a wall of blue, finishing the first half with 13 attempts and minus 6 yards. Martinez tried to create and buy time for the passing game, but Michigan’s defenders swarmed to the ball. Martinez frequently evaded the first tackler behind the line of scrimmage, but the second or third often found his mark.

Perhaps the most positive takeaway for Martinez was this: His knee held up, even after being sacked four times and hit several more times.

“My knee feels fine,” he said. “I don’t feel half-bad right now. Obviously, losing the way we did doesn’t feel good, but my body, I’ll recover.”