In a place called the Cornhusker State, you'd better believe Nebraska football is a big deal. In fact, it's the only deal since there are no professional sports teams in the state and just one FBS team.
Given all this attention, Cornhuskers redshirt junior quarterback Taylor Martinez receives his share of praise, advice, and criticism. Especially criticism. It's a lot of pressure on a 22-year-old college student, but he finds ways to deal with it.
"He handles it in his own way," senior wide receiver and punt returner Tim Marlowe said. "He's a quiet kid. He doesn't let very many things get to him. He handles the media in a kind of fun way, just shrugs questions off when he doesn't want to answer them. He's really smart about it.
"All us teammates keep him positive. Even when he has a bad play here and there, we're the first ones picking him up. He's always calm. He's just having a fun year and it's fun to watch."
Penn State may not have the same opinion when it goes into Memorial Stadium on Saturday to face the dangerous Martinez and the 18th-ranked Cornhuskers.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Martinez needed just 35 games to shatter Nebraska's record of 7,915 career total-offense yards set by 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch from 1998 to 2001. Aided by a 205-yard rushing performance, Martinez finished last week's game against Michigan State with 8,166.
Martinez led the Cornhuskers (7-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) to victory in the closing seconds, keeping the drive alive with a 38-yard completion to tight end Kyler Reed on fourth and 10. He later hit Jamal Turner for 5 yards and the winning touchdown with six seconds remaining.
"He's a very even-keeled kid who doesn't get too down on himself or the team," Marlowe said. "On Saturday he had a couple of [actually three] interceptions and he could have gone the wrong way with it, but he stayed focused and calm in the pocket and in the huddle and kept everyone positive."
As Marlowe said, Martinez is a man of few words, at least in front of the media. He showed it when asked Monday about the final drive.
On practicing the two-minute offense: "It's pretty much our normal offense because we go so fast-paced. We have to execute and just know in our heads that we have got to score."
On the team's comeback: "We have a lot of heart on our team."
So there you go. Allow Nebraska coach Bo Pelini to expand.
"I think Taylor is pretty calm," he said. "He has a lot of confidence. He's getting better as a football player."
Martinez injured his ankle Oct. 27 against Michigan and on Monday said that it was still tender. But "you pretty much have to block it out," he said.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien called Martinez "a unique talent."
"He's got great speed," he said. "He's got great command of the offense. He's throwing the ball very accurately."
Martinez has been panned at times for his unusual throwing motion, but he's getting results. He is tied with Penn State's Matt McGloin for first place in the Big Ten with 18 touchdown passes, but he has thrown eight interceptions, compared with three picks for McGloin.
"With Taylor, a guy with his athletic package, you have to deal with a couple of mistakes here and there," Marlowe said. "He gives you so much else."
Marlowe said every team "has those fans that want to jump on you when things aren't going good." That's about 5 percent of Nebraska's followers, he said.
It's difficult being the center of attention of a football-crazed state, but Taylor Martinez is handling it - quietly.
All-stars. Penn State had four players - guard John Urschel, defensive ends Pete Massaro and Brad Bars and linebacker Ben Kline - selected to the Capital One Academic all-District football team. All four players are eligible to be named to the Academic all-America team. Massaro, a senior who starred at Marple Newtown High School in Delaware County, made the 2010 Academic all-America team.