Taylor Martinez and his broken throwing motion have been the subject of ridicule for Big Ten fans since Nebraska entered the conference, but the junior quarterback is one of the most potent offensive weapons in the league entering the Cornhuskers' matchup against the Penn State Nittany Lions Saturday.
Martinez is completing 62.9 percent of his passes for an offense that's averaging 30 points and 444 yards in Big Ten play. Although he still looks like he's skipping rocks, as Wisconsin defensive end David Gilbert said, Martinez has been a part of a much improved Nebraska attack seemingly on its way to the Big Ten Championship game.
Bill Connelly at SB Nation has a thoroughly detailed analysis of the differences between Nebraska's attack last year and this year in his Penn State vs. Nebraska preview. Aalthough he finds the third-year starter's play is roughly the same, the results are different due to changed play-calling.
Martinez's throwing motion really hasn't improved that much, but it hasn't had to. Play-action and simple passes on short-yardage situations have given Nebraska opportunities to make Martinez's life easier, and it has. Second-year offensive coordinator Tim Beck has also entrusted Martinez to do more on passing downs -- after running 43 percent of the time on passing downs in 2011, the Huskers are doing so just 37 percent of the time in 2012 -- and it hasn't necessarily paid off that much. But thanks to the play-calling, Martinez is dealing with far fewer passing downs than he did a year ago. Beck and line coach Barney Cotton deserve a significant amount of credit for Nebraska's offensive improvement in 2012.
Connelly finds fault with the oft-repeated slogan among Nebraska followers that Martinez's passing ability greatly improved, as evidenced by last week's 16-for-36, two-touchdown, three-interception performance against Michigan State. But in that same game, the junior still tore apart the Spartan defense with 205 yards on the ground.