Photo courtesy of Nebraska athletics

It’s been a rough first two seasons for head coach Scott Frost in Lincoln. Nebraska is a combined 9-15 over the last two seasons.

The Cornhuskers’ success in 2020 will hinge largely on quarterback Adrian Martinez.The drop-off from 2018 to 2019 was shocking for college football fans from around the country. Martinez might possibly be the most confusing, yet interesting player in the entire college football landscape.

From his freshman to his sophomore season, Martinez’s performance took a 180-degree turn. In 2018, he was marvelous with a 65 percent completion rate, 2,617 passing yards, and 17 passing touchdowns. He threw eight picks, but the efficiency and understanding of Frost’s offense gave Nebraska fans hope.

2019 season

In 2019, all of the hype came crashing down. While the rushing stats were basically the same, Martinez displayed less explosiveness and ability to make defenders miss in 2019. After some oddsmakers gave Martinez the third-best odds to win the Heisman Trophy, he had 100 fewer pass attempts in 2019 because of injury and inefficiency.

His completion percentage dropped below 60 percent and he was sacked the exact same amount (23 times) with 100 fewer attempts. The question is why? That’s what we’ll try to answer.

He had a better offensive line in 2019, yet struggled to “pull the trigger” because of the defensive looks he was getting time and time again. Martinez accumulated only 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. That is extremely inefficient in this style of up-tempo spread offense.

There were a number of reasons for Martinez’s decline in 2019. Not all of them were physical. Some were mental. We’ll break all of this down in a three-part series.

More than physical tools

Martinez dealt with expectations that were sky-high in year No. 2 in Frost’s system. That may have played a big role because of the ever-changing landscape of college football that is evolving into a “results-driven community”. These expectations and added pressure can really hurt a team that should be better than 5-7.

A prime example was last year’s Ohio State game on Sept. 28. College Gameday came to Lincoln and so much hype/pressure was in the atmosphere for a team that wasn’t ready yet. The end result — a 48-7 victory for the Buckeyes — speaks for itself. The defeat also shows how fan bases can crush a team.

Enough about the mental aspect, but this all reverts back to a young quarterback in Martinez. A breakdown of his film shows a lot more flaws in 2019 than the normal fan would see from simply watching the game. That’s what we’ll be looking at in the next two pieces.