EAST LANSING, Mich. — Adrian Martinez lay flat on his back after Nebraska's third snap of the game.
He had just taken a crushing blow on a third-down carry on the Huskers' opening possession and needed a couple of minutes before he got up with the assistance of NU personnel.
The junior from Fresno, California, made his way to the sideline, then to the locker room where coach Scott Frost said he had X-rays on what appeared to be a hard shot to his chin/jaw area.
Martinez missed one series — backup Logan Smothers led Nebraska down the field on a seven-play, 26-yard drive that was ultimately beset by two false-start penalties on the offensive line — and then the junior was back in there.
And, man, did he deliver.
Martinez finished his day 24-of-34 for 251 yards and an overtime interception, and carried the ball 20 bruising times for 65 yards and a pair of scores.
The interception will be remembered, as will a fumble on the second play of the fourth quarter, but Nebraska also would not have been in position to win the game without another gutty effort from its quarterback.
"He's a dog," junior defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt said. "I've known Adrian since we came here together. Before every game it's, 'I love you, I trust you and I believe in you.' I tell him that every game because I know what he can do, man. Once he gets out there and he gets to going, you can't stop 2AM."
Martinez said he knew it was only a matter of time before he was back in the game. On his second series after his return, he turned a sure sack into a 45-yard bolt up the middle and helped set up Connor Culp's first field goal.
He picked up third downs and fourth downs with his legs and his feet. In the end, it wasn't enough. Frost said he thought Martinez could have executed better in overtime. But Frost also didn't hold back in his praise of the 6-foot-2, 212-pounder running his offense.
"Adrian's a really good player and he's had ups and downs at Nebraska, too, and he's got all sorts of praise and all sorts of criticism," Frost said. "He's one of the best players I've been around and, I think, one of the best players in the country. We rely on him. He did enough tonight for us to win. A lot of guys did enough for us to win.
"It's a crying shame."