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Martinez's Nebraska magic will give D-Rob run for his money


MANHATTAN, KS -- D-Rob meet T-Magic.

T-Magic meet D-Rob.

We can't wait for the bowl game -- or the match race.

Taylor Martinez looks very Denard Robinson-esque by leaving burnt defenders in his wake. (US Presswire)  
Taylor Martinez looks very Denard Robinson-esque by leaving burnt defenders in his wake. (US Presswire)  
For now, Big Red suddenly trumps flowing dreads.

If you need formal introductions, D-Rob is Michigan's Denard Robinson, who has met little resistance in accounting for more than two-thirds of Michigan's offense. If you need a Heisman race, T-Magic, Nebraska's tragically unhip Taylor Martinez, just gave you one Thursday night. Rest assured, at this rate, street-to-English dictionaries will be passed out by the Downtown Athletic Club.

The players themselves are sending each other the same message playing the same game: run first and top this. Advantage Martinez after Thursday's 48-13 trouncing of Kansas State. In his first stand-alone nationally televised game, the redshirt freshman set the school rushing record for quarterbacks.

A coming out? Those are for cotillions. Going for 242 yards (along with four rushing touchdowns) for the school that produced Eric Crouch, Turner Gill and Tommie Frazier is more like setting the Yankees' home run record.

Michigan's "Shoelace" is on pace for 2,000 rushing yards with the help of Velcro and no help from his defense. You might have heard a million or more times that Robinson plays with his shoes untied. Martinez is simply on pace to restore the glory to Nebraska -- if he can ever get out of Bo Pelini's dog house. Twelve days ago, Nebraska's next top model was yanked in the fourth quarter of a sluggish 17-3 home win over South Dakota State.

"A) It was homecoming," explained Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, "B) no disrespect intended, it was South Dakota State. He thought, 'OK, I can go out and have a knockout game.' It was a good thing for his career because it got his attention."

Maybe the nation woke up, too, on Thursday night. While Nebraska should never complain about media exposure, Martinez hasn't exactly gotten his 15 minutes. Except for being part of that team-wide letdown against the Jackrabbits, Martinez has been money. The same day last month that he went for 287 yards in total offense at Washington, Robinson was putting up 345 yards against Massachusetts. Robinson is flashier with his flowing locks. T-Mart -- there's another alias -- is so economical with his words that he turned down an on-field interview from the Worldwide Leader.

"He doesn't like media," Watson said. "He just wants to be left alone and he wants to play."

Adding to the mystery, Martinez hasn't been timed in the 40 since his junior year in high school where the quarterback says he ran "in the low 4.4s." Since it's unlikely the nation's ultimate dual threats will meet in anything but a BCS bowl this season -- there are only a couple of lower-level Big Ten/Big 12 matchups outside the BCS -- someone is going to have to set up a match race.

"From what I've seen he's probably the fastest on the team," receiver Niles Paul said. "Maybe just as fast [as Robinson]."

More Nebraska-Kansas State

Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini recruited Martinez out of California amid, he says, the snickers of some Pac-10 coaches who thought the kid would never be a quarterback. Nebraska didn't exactly slot him right in when it redshirted him in 2009, trying Martinez on the scout team as a receiver, safety and, oh yeah, quarterback.

"He had a lot to learn," Watson said. "He was in China, man. He was learning how to speak the language."

The difference between the teams surrounding Martinez and Robinson is that Nebraska is more complete. It has a defense, a ferocious one. Thursday's muzzling of the Wildcats marked the 13th consecutive game the Blackshirts held an opponent to 21 points or less, the second-longest streak in the nation. The Martinez-led offense does remind you of some of the quick-strike Nebraska teams of the past. The Huskers' six touchdowns Thursday averaged 58.6 yards in length. Martinez's 370 yards in total offense broke a 19-year-old school record for freshmen.

Maybe all the Huskers needed was a challenge. They were supposed to get it from an emotion-filled final meeting with Kansas State. Wildcats coach Bill Snyder had beaten Nebraska in his last four meetings here at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. This was his last chance to make a permanent memory of the opponent he made into a rival by beating the Huskers five out of seven times from 1998-2004. Instead, the Huskers are leaving for the Big Ten and K-State will be haunted by a 35-point beat down. A hand-made sign in the top row read "TREA$ON". It should have pleaded for "Defense." The nation's 91st ranked rush defense hit a season low allowing 587 yards (451 of it rushing).

It's bad when the opposing quarterback is outrunning the D on quarterback draws. Up the middle. That's how Martinez scored at least two of his four rushing touchdowns. The first was an opening-quarter 14-yard run that Martinez said was "improvised". That's code for bobbling the snap, trying to hand off to a guy who isn't close and then tucking and running.

"We had to make a statement," Martinez said, "because some people didn't think we were physical enough."

Huh? Nebraska not physical? Check this, D-Rob. Martinez now is on pace for 1,769 rushing yards, even with that clunker against South Dakota State. Where you won't see him is in the national passing stats. The NCAA requires a minimum of 15 passes per game to qualify. Martinez has passed 64 times in five games. But when he does hook up, it is significant. He is averaging more than 10 yards per attempt. There was a 79-yard catch and run by Kyler Reed that made it 38-6 late in the third quarter.

Mostly, though, it was T-Magic running for Nebraska and gunning for D-Rob.

"It's a throwback attitude," Watson said, "Just give me the ball."

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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