Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn."
- C.S. Lewis
By Randy York
One thing you have to give Taylor Martinez is his remarkable ability to erase a bad memory and hit the reset button faster than he can juke a linebacker out of his cleats. Yes, Texas A&M came up in a question at Monday's press conference, and Martinez embraced the experience like it was the greatest teacher he's ever had, even if it was one monumentally brutal experience. Surely, you remember the sideline chat Nebraska's then freshman quarterback had with his head coach. Well, Martinez thinks that injury-riddled humiliation in College Station may pay dividends in State College.
I mean, pitting A&M and Penn State in a towel-waving, noise-deafening showdown might make great reality TV on some fledgling network. Who knows? Maybe Martinez could be the judge. He does, after all, believe that Big 12 collapse could be transformative enough to produce a different result in the Big Ten. Asked if that Aggie atmosphere can help the Huskers against the Nittany Lions, Martinez was almost ebullient in his reply. "I think it will help us tremendously," he said, "because some of our players played at Texas A&M. I heard Penn State gets pretty loud and rowdy, so we'll see how it goes."
Martinez is a year older, a year wiser and fresh off his best passing performance since he bombed Oklahoma State with 323 yards and five touchdown passes (and rushed for another 119 yards) last year in a 51-41 Husker win in Stillwater. Martinez's marquee achievement was "one of the most phenomenal performances I've seen from a Nebraska quarterback," Nebraska Hall-of-Fame Coach/Athletic Director Tom Osborne said, "especially with so many guys flying right next to the ear holes in his helmet." So forget the network studio host who insisted two Saturdays ago that Martinez should never launch another pass ... ever. Makes you wonder what he thought when Martinez completed 29 of 38 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns against Northwestern. How could Martinez's electric legs stay so composed in the pocket? Maybe novelist, critic, essayist and theologian C.S. Lewis has the best answer when he observed: "Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn."
"From last year to this year, I've grown a lot," Martinez said. "Just from being able to look at different receivers and know where the routes are coming from." If they're not open, Martinez just checks it down. "I think that I'm kind of using myself as a drop-back passer instead of dropping back and running," he said, growing ever more confident in his reliance on his running backs to chew up the biggest chunks of real estate - the kind he earned en route to becoming a well-known name early in his freshman season. Bo Pelini and Tim Beck have praised Martinez for his quantum leap in overall game management, and Saturday at high noon ET, a more mature quarterback has a golden opportunity to replace the debacle at A&M with what could be a career-defining moment at Penn State. Considering everything else that's going on in State College, this could be a game that'll draw the largest national television audience in ESPN early-bird special time-slot history. Let's just hope that if Penn State happens to break its all-time single-game attendance record of 110,753 (set against Nebraska in 2002), the white towels will signify surrender instead of intimidation. Now that Martinez has found his rhythm in Lincoln, it sounds like he has no intention of losing it.
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