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July 10, 2013

NCAA Football 14 suggests big year for Martinez

With the start of fall practice a little less than a month away, we've reached the prediction stage of the college football offseason. The preseason magazines have been released, talking heads are already crowning national champions and optimism is high for every fan base.

With all the opinions out there, why not ask NCAA Football 14, EA Sports' new video game that was released this week? The Huskers are ranked No. 22 on the game and have an overall rating of 88. To no surprise, EA is clearly more confident in Nebraska's offense (91 rating) than its defense (85). The Huskers' playbook seems very accurate (yes, it features the vaunted "Bone" formation) and has last year's alternate jerseys from the Wisconsin game available. Unfortunately, this year's much-improved alternate duds aren't an option yet.

As we did last year, we simulated the season with the current rosters to see how NU would do (in last fall's simulation, Nebraska lost to Utah in the Rose Bowl). We also kept a close eye on Taylor Martinez. Though the young defense will certainly play a big role, it appears this Husker squad will go as far as its senior quarterback can take them.

Week 1: Nebraska 42, Wyoming 17

The Huskers wasted no time in bashing the Cowboys. Imani Cross kicked off the scoring with a pair of touchdown runs and Nebraska never looked back from there, rolling up 525 yards of total offense, 263 of which came on the ground.

Martinez: 20-30 for 262 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 13 rushes for 101 yards, 1 touchdown

Week 2: Nebraska 56, Southern Miss 28

This game was actually tied at halftime after the Golden Eagles 28 points in the second quarter. But Martinez found Jamal Turner and Kenny Bell for touchdowns in the third quarter and Ciante Evans returned an interception for a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter to help Nebraska pull away.

Martinez: 22-25 for 341 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 17 rushes for 54 yards, 0 touchdowns

Week 3: Nebraska 38, UCLA 10

Husker fans can only hope this marquee matchup plays out in real life like it did in the game. Nebraska jumped out to a 21-0 lead on a pair of touchdown receptions by Ameer Abdullah and a running score from Martinez. The defense harassed UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley all afternoon, frustrating him into a 13-for-31 passing performance.

Martinez: 17-30 for 154 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception, 18 rushes for 97 yards, 1 touchdown

Week 4: Nebraska 56, FCS Midwest 13

The game doesn't have South Dakota State, inserting a made-up cupcake team instead. Not surprisingly, this contest was over before it started. The Huskers raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and withstood a mysterious charge from the opposition in the second quarter to improve to 4-0.

Martinez: 10-14 for 128 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 8 rushes for 27 yards, 1 touchdown

Come on EA!
So much about this year's version of NCAA Football is improved, but no one is perfect, right? It's incredibly difficult to rate every player in the nation, but there were a couple of glowing miscues that simply couldn't go without mentioning.

Martinez's speed: For the fourth straight year, EA shortchanged Martinez in the speed category. Though he does have 97 acceleration, Martinez got an 88 speed rating, making him slower than linebacker Jared Afalava and cornerback Andrew Green, who somehow rated as NU's fastest player.

Cornerbacks: Outside of Evans, NU's best two cornerbacks last year were Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Andrew Green. But those players are rated 74 and 80, respectively, and sit behind Rose, Green and Mo Seisay on the depth chart. It very well may play out that way, but that duo deserves a bit more respect.

Linebacker depth chart: You can't blame EA for listing the recently dismissed Thomas Brown as a starter, as the game was finished before his exit. But Rose seems a long shot to start at middle linebacker and Zaire Anderson, who will almost surely start at one of the outside spots, is a backup.

Strength: This is pretty picky - it's unfair to ask the game's creators to stay up to date on every players' workout numbers. But Cross' strength is just a 70 overall - this is a guy who can do 41 pull-ups and more than 200 push-ups in a sitting. No offense to David Sutton (74 rating)or Trevor Roach (74), but there is no way Cross should be rated below those guys.

Week 6: Nebraska 38, Illinois 28

Nebraska seemed a bit rusty after the first bye week, falling behind 14-7 early in the second quarter. But the Huskers would score the next 31 points, capped off by a pick six by Jonathan Rose. Illinois scored a touchdown with 6:47 remaining, but that was as close as the Illini would get. Abdullah had his best game of the season with a 117-yard day.

Martinez: 14-26 for 118 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 12 rushes for 83 yards, 2 touchdowns

Week 7: Nebraska 34, Purdue 28 (OT)

The Boilermakers entered the game with just one win but gave NU all it could handle. Martinez found Jake Long for a two-yard score to tie the game with 6:57 remaining and after no one else could score, the game went to overtime. After the Blackshirts forced an interception, Quincy Enunwa snared a touchdown to help the Huskers escape.

Martinez: 25-43 for 260 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 21 rushes for 97 yards

Week 9: Nebraska 55, Minnesota 17

There was no letdown after NU's second bye week. The Huskers scored 41 points in the second half to pull away after leading 14-10 at the half. Backup quarterback Tommy Armstrong made the most of his garbage time in the fourth quarter - the redshirt freshman threw the first two touchdown passes of his career.

Martinez: 19-23 for 244 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 6 rushes for 36 yards

Week 10: Nebraska 40, Northwestern 21

Looking to pull off another upset in Lincoln, the Wildcats led 14-3 early in the second quarter. But the Huskers awoke and scored the game's next 24 points, including a pair of long touchdown runs by Martinez.

Martinez: 18-26 for 363 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 13 rushes for 127 yards, 2 touchdowns

Week 11: Nebraska 34, Michigan 20

Devin Gardner gave the Blackshirts some real problems early on, but the Huskers took the lead for good on a 45-yard touchdown reception by Enunwa. Pat Smith connected on four of his five field goal tries and Cross rushed for a pair of scores to keep Nebraska unbeaten.

Martinez: 18-28 for 238 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 15 rushes for 80 yards

Week 12: Nebraska 31, Michigan State 24

Just like last year's contest in East Lansing, the Huskers trailed the Spartans entering the final quarter. Smith booted a 33-yard field goal to tie the game on the first play of the fourth and Cross found the end zone from three yards out with 5:44 left. Nebraska intercepted Andrew Maxwell to end MSU's comeback hopes. Martinez didn't have any turnovers but submitted a pretty mundane game.

Martinez: 15-30 for 210 yards, 2 touchdowns, 15 rushes for 50 yards

Week 13: Nebraska 36, Penn State 6

There were no controversial fumbles in this year's game. The Nebraska offense cooled off after scoring 30 first-half points, including Jordan Westerkamp's first career touchdown catch and a 64-yard interception return for touchdown by Harvey Jackson. The Huskers could only manage a pair of Smith field goals after intermission, but the Blackshirts ensured that would be more than enough.

Martinez: 20-35 for 250 yards, 2 touchdowns, 10 rushes for 48 yards

Week 14: Nebraska 35, Iowa 10

The Huskers continued their domination over Iowa behind a trio of touchdown passes by Martinez. Michael Rose submitted his best performance of the season, registering nine tackles, including a sack, and an interception.

Martinez: 18-30 for 268 yards, 3 touchdowns, 16 rushes for 56 yards, 1 touchdown

Big Ten Championship: Ohio State 45, Nebraska 24

The Huskers' struggles in conference title games continued as NU suffered its first loss of the season against the top-ranked Buckeyes. Nebraska pulled with 17-14 in the second quarter but OSU scored two touchdowns in the final 3:23 of the first half to pull away. Ohio State piled up 253 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, including four by Carlos Hyde.

Martinez: 14-23 for 202 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 19 rushes for 105 yards, 2 touchdowns

Orange Bowl: Nebraska 42, Maryland 20

The Huskers erased the pain of the Big Ten title game loss to wax Maryland and secure a BCS bowl game win. Martinez was extremely efficient, missing on just five passes and throwing for three scores. Cross was a beast once again, finishing with 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Martinez: 17-22 for 226 yards, 3 touchdowns, 13 rushes for 71 yards, 1 touchdown

Season notes

***It's safe to say Martinez did his part - the senior threw for 34 touchdowns, breaking Zac Taylor's single-season school record, and won the Heisman trophy in a close vote over Johnny Manziel and Braxton Miller.

His final numbers: 247-385 (64.2 percent) for 3,264 yards, 34 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 196 rushes for 1,032 yards (5.2 average), 11 touchdowns

***Four Huskers were named second-team All-Americans - Smith, center Cole Pensick, right guard Spencer Long and defensive tackle Thad Randle.

***Nine Huskers made the Big Ten's first team, including Cross, Rose, Mauro Bondi (at punter), linebackerDavid Santos, defensive tackle Kevin Williams and defensive end Jason Ankrah.

***Cross was the biggest surprise of the season, stealing the starting role from Abdullah to rush for 1,157 yards and 15 touchdowns. Abdullah finished with 609 yards and six scores in exactly half as many carries.

***Ohio State won the national championship.

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