Taylor Martinez needs to silence critics. Can he?

Martinez has run himself to success in the past. Can he save the Huskers season with his legs? (Photo Courtesy: Husker Locker)

There was a time when Husker fans were excited for Taylor Martinez. As a freshman he could do no wrong as his name circulated in the Heisman-hyped carousel. He slashed opponent defenses and ran Nebraska to an unbeaten record and a No. 5 ranking. Then Texas came to Lincoln. The one game Nebraska fans had been waiting for all season. In the game Martinez mustered just 21 yards on 13 carries and completed just four of his 12 pass attempts in the game. He put the ball on the ground twice, although neither fumble was lost.

Fans were calling for a new quarterback. It didn’t matter that his wide receivers dropped passes, including touchdown potentials. It didn’t matter that a Roy Helu fumble led to a Texas touchdown. What mattered was Martinez couldn’t move the offense and Zac Lee came into the game to spell the young quarterback. It was just one loss for Nebraska. Still plenty to play for, but the support was lifted.

Pelini and Martinez exchanged words last season, leading to Martinez transfer rumors.

The up and down season for Martinez continued and ended with rumors that he was planning to transfer because of a confrontation with head coach Bo Pelini. Husker fans wondered what was next, but excitement built for the young phenom, Bubba Starling, who committed to Nebraska while waiting for the MLB draft.

Over the summer Starling went to Nebraska for workouts. It gave Husker fans hope that the Kansas high school star would stick to his commitment. After being drafted fifth overall by the Kansas City Royals and a lot of negotiations, Starling left Lincoln to be in the Royals organization.

Martinez was again the front runner at quarterback. Some fans again showed support while others, with flashbacks from last year’s debacle, remained pessimistic about Nebraska’s season. Really the only excitement for the season was built around Nebraska’s debut into the Big Ten Conference.

With hopes of playing in the first-ever Big Ten Championship game, Nebraska fans were disappointed with the start of the 2011 season. Criticism of the coaches, players, offense, defense, everything followed the team. There was no longer a such thing as “as win is a win”. Nebraska began the season being tested by opponents that fans thought should have been a walk-in-the-park.

Then came the Wisconsin game. Martinez made mistakes. Three critical mistakes. The Badgers turned three Martinez interceptions into 21 points and beat up the No. 8 Huskers. The criticism arose louder than ever. Martinez lost any support he had left from Husker Nation.

If Martinez can shrug critics and play his game he will be a fan favorite by the end of the season (again).

Fans have been calling for Brion Carnes to have a chance to lead the offense. A player that has shown his talents, but has also shown he isn’t ready to be the team leader. The coaches, despite fans criticism and newspaper columns that belittled the quarterback, stuck with Martinez in a pivotal game against the Buckeyes.

A rough start to the game led to Martinez being booed as he walked off the field at intermission. Again, there was no faith from Husker nation. In the second half Martinez led Nebraska to the biggest comeback in school history. He connected on a long pass play that many have been skeptical on. He used his legs and took hits that he has been advised not to take.

Nebraska won. Husker Nation celebrated. Husker fans once again cheered for the quarterback. With a bye week next for Nebraska there will be many questions going forward. Nebraska may be in for another long season. Taylor Martinez is definitely in for a long season. In Nebraska, he will be praised if success continues, but one simple mistake and the booing will return to memorial stadium.

If the quarterback can put the critics aside he will prove he can be the leader of the Huskers. In Nebraska doesn’t reach the Big Ten championship game this season he will struggle gain support again.

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