Red Report: Aside from ‘tragic errors,’ Verduzco thinks Martinez showed exceptional poise
Adrian Martinez’s debut as Nebraska’s starting quarterback last weekend was in many ways promising, even scintillating at times.
He rushed 15 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns, and was 15-for-20 passing for another TD, with a critical fourth-quarter interception.
He also lost a fumble in the first quarter, which led to a Colorado touchdown.
“Aside from the tragic errors — better to die as a baby than to fumble the football or throw a pick, right?” Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said Wednesday. “Other than that, just in terms of doing the eval, I looked at all the plays and then he got his evaluation.”
In the context of Martinez being a true freshman, Verduzco said, the QB was “really, really, really poised.”
“His eyeballs were good, his feet were good,” the coach said. “I thought the way he handled himself in the pocket was outstanding. He sat in there and did the things he needed to do — went through his reads and his keys. I think Coach (Troy) Walters and Coach (Scott) Frost were pretty pleased with that. But then again, on the other hand, there were those sorts of errors that were really costly, and he understands that, but it is what it is.”
Verduzco chuckled when asked how he felt about Martinez’s reaction on the sideline to his interception.
“Well, the first thing I noticed is he went and made the tackle,” the coach said. “That was important.”
Important, but sort of scary. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Martinez led with his surgically repaired right (throwing) shoulder on his tackle of Colorado linebacker Nate Landman, a 6-3, 220-pound sophomore.
“When you watch it on tape, you’re like, ‘Oh, God, is he going to blow up his shoulder?’” Verduzco said. “But that’s his job. As Coach Frost has said, ‘You can’t be a candy ass and play quarterback for the Cornhuskers.’”
Wrong read: Of Landman’s interception, Verduzco said Martinez’s progression of reads needed to be “outside-in as opposed to inside-out.”
“Ultimately, it’s my fault. I’m his coach, right?” Verduzco said. “Obviously I did not do a good enough job of hammering that point. Just like I didn’t do a good enough job of hammering the point about ball security. Just like I didn’t do a good enough of job of when he’s running the option, making sure he attacks the guy’s outside shoulder. That comes back to me. He’s 18 years old, right?”
Martinez knew Verduzco wouldn’t scream and yell about the pick. That’s not the coach’s style. Verduzco says in that type of situation, he’ll typically ask the quarterback exactly what he saw on the play and if his feet were in the right position.
“It’s not going to do him any good for me just to climb down his throat,” Verduzco said.
Ramping it up: Matt Masker, a freshman walk-on from Kearney Catholic, is No. 3 on the quarterback depth chart behind Martinez and Andrew Bunch. Walters, the offensive coordinator, said Masker is getting “plenty of reps this week.” Coaches would tailor the game plan around his strengths if he were needed in a game, the coach said.
Masker took reps with mainly the third and fourth strings during preseason camp.
“This is probably the first week he’s gotten a lot of reps with the ones and twos,” Walters said. “He’s done a good job.”
Six deep: Offensive line coach Greg Austin had no qualms about putting Boe Wilson in against Colorado when center Cole Conrad briefly went down. In fact, Wilson was set to see time anyhow.
“I thought he stepped in and played really well,” Austin said of the 6-2, 305-pound sophomore. “I’m excited about his progress. He’s certainly a guy we feel confident inside that he’ll step in and do his job and play at a high level.”
Wilson played about 20 of NU’s 83 offensive snaps overall, all at right guard. Senior Tanner Farmer started at right guard, slid to center while Conrad was out, then shared time at guard with Wilson over the final three quarters.