I never was a big believer in the whole "T-Magic" nickname when Taylor Martinez burst on the scene in 2010 as a freshman. Sure, he made nice plays with his feet, but sometimes, he made awful ones with his arm. And frequently, he didn't make smart plays. Frankly, nicknames are things you earn on the field, and Martinez never earned a lot of that initial hype. Martinez for Heisman as a freshman? Puh-leaze.
Then there was the ankle injury against Missouri, which robbed him of his speed for the end of last season. People calling for his head after that A&M game. Well, maybe not his head. Just hoping that he'd get benched. Or simply transfer. Even when he played well, Martinez detractors could only grudgingly acknowledge his accomplishments. Every interception, every fumble always seem to count more than the touchdowns.
Make no bones about it, Martinez made plenty of mistakes tonight. Three interceptions and a fumble. Negative four yards of offense in the third quarter, and Nebraska trailed by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter.
And here comes "T-Magic".
This is no fluke. He did it against Ohio State last season, then Wisconsin and Northwestern this season. All Martinez does is try to make plays. Sometimes it backfires badly. But once again, Martinez makes the plays down the stretch to win the game. With seven minutes to go, Nebraska faced a fourth down and one from the Michigan State 39. I thought Nebraska should punt; others thought Nebraska should go for it. Why punt? Pin the Spartans deep, and live to fight another series. Nebraska has plenty of time, and Martinez still has plenty time to work his magic. As it turns out, Ameer Abudullah got the first down, then Martinez scored on the naked bootleg, and the game was back on. So while the gamble certainly worked, I wasn't necessarily wrong.
After the Huskers forced yet another three and out from the Spartans, Nebraska faced a fourth and 10 from the Spartans 45 yard line with just over three minutes to play. A punt probably was in order here as well, but Nebraska went for it...but came up short this time. But the defense comes through again, and the Huskers have a minute and a half to tie the game.
Another fourth down, and Martinez finds Kyler Reed for a 38 yard gain. Boom, and the Huskers are in position to tie the game with a field goal. Hell with that...let's win it. Kenny Bell gets the benefit of a weak pass interference call, and sets up Jamal Turner's first touchdown catch of his career. And the legend comes through again. Huskers win 28-24.
Michigan State players were all over Twitter after the game ended to complain about the officiating. They've since deleted many of them. Were there some bad calls? Absolutely. Some favored Michigan State, some favored Nebraska. That bogus late hit out of bounds on Daimion Stafford after getting pushed by Keith Mumphrey gave Michigan State a second chance to go up by 10 instead of going for a field goal for a six point lead. Without that bad call, Martinez's 35 yard touchdown gives the Huskers the lead with seven minutes to play.
Was the game badly officiated? Yep. The bad calls went both ways, and anybody claiming that Michigan State was robbed by the officials is guilty of selective memory. If you have any questions, look at the statistics, where Nebraska dominated the Spartans in nearly every category.
Ameer Abdullah had another impressive game running the sweep all game; sometimes it looked like it was going to get bottled up, but Abdullah kept finding a seam for an eight yard gain all day long. Much of the rest of the offense was a muddled mess at times; Tim Beck kept trying to run sweeps and reverses that were eaten up alive by a solid Michigan State defense.
Defensively, you had to love the game by Eric Martin and Baker Steinkuhler bottling up the Spartans most of the night up front. Daimion Stafford had a lackluster first half, then redeemed himself with a solid second half. Stanley Jean-Baptiste is still raw at cornerback, getting burned on that jump ball in the end zone. Don't give up on Jean-Baptiste, though. He's going to get better. I wish I could say the same thing about Andrew Green, though. I wasn't terribly impressed with him today, though I'm probably being too hard on him. Justin Blatchford had the unenviable task of trying to cover all 285pounds of Dion Sims and more than held his own.
Bo Pelini will probably talk about the mistakes that Nebraska keeps making, and he's right...and wrong. If Nebraska could only clean up those screwups, the Huskers would be in contention for more than a Big Ten trophy. But it's November, and at this point, you are what you are. Nebraska keeps making mistakes, but keeps finding a way to win.
Call it Magic if you want. It doesn't matter; Nebraska is 7-2 and on track to get to Indianapolis. After the Ohio State game, Bo Pelini stated that Nebraska had to win out. Well, that's what Nebraska has done. It hasn't been pretty...
But it's damn sure T-Magical...