SEATTLE — Taylor Martinez passed the test of his first start in a hostile environment. Nebraska’s young quarterback got plenty of help along the way.
Martinez ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns, threw for another 150 yards and a score and the eighth-ranked overwhelmed Washington in a convincing 56-21 win on Saturday.
Roy Helu Jr. added 110 yards and touchdown runs of 65 and 8 yards and the Cornhuskers ran wild for 383 yards rushing against the Huskies confused, manhandled defense.
Nebraska (3-0) led 28-14 at halftime before Martinez took the first play of the second half 80 yards for his second score. Washington (1-2) never got closer than 14. The 56 points tied the most ever allowed by Washington at home.
While Martinez was tormenting the Washington defense, Jake Locker was slogging through the worst game of his career, on a day the Huskies needed him to be Heisman-worthy to have a chance.
Earlier this week, Nebraska safety Ricky Thenarse said they goal was making Locker prove he was a great quarterback worthy of all his accolades.
Locker failed. He wasn’t even average.
Pressured by the Cornhuskers front, and unable to find receivers breaking open against Nebraska’s aggressive secondary Locker made mistake after mistake.
Locker finished 4 of 20 for 71 yards and two interceptions. He added 59 yards rushing and a touchdown. His best throw of the day came on Washington first possession of the second half, a 45-yard touchdown toss to Jermaine Kearse.
But that was it, and Locker isn’t alone in struggling against Nebraska. In last year’s Holiday Bowl, the Cornhuskers flustered Arizona QB Nick Foles into hitting just 6 of 20 passes for 28 yards and an interception.
Saturday’s performance should end Locker’s fleeting Heisman hopes. It was the eighth time Locker threw multiple interceptions in a game and Washington’s 0-8 in those games.
While Locker was busy falling out of the Heisman race, Martinez might have inserted himself. After cleaning up on Western Kentucky and Idaho at home to begin his career, the redshirt freshman took his show on the road and made a statement about the Cornhuskers place in the Big 12. The Huskers might be at the top of the heap.
Locker’s first throw of the day was woefully underthrown and Eric Hagg darted in front of the poor pass, the first turnover of the season for Locker.
It took Nebraska two plays — both for 24 yards — to take the lead, with Martinez throwing to Mike McNeill for a TD. Martinez added a 1-yard plunge after hitting Brandon Kinnie for 55 yards on the Cornhuskers second possession.
But Martinez’s best throw of the day came early in the second quarter. Washington had closed to 14-7 and the Cornhuskers faced third-and-16 at their 49. Given time to throw, Martinez found Niles Paul for 21 yards and three plays later Helu scored the first of his two touchdowns.
Washington was given hope when backup quarterback Cody Green entered for one series and promptly fumbled at the Nebraska 17. Nate Fellner recovered for Washington and two plays later Chris Polk scored to cut the deficit to 21-14.
Following Green’s fumble, Martinez re-entered and the Cornhuskers run game rolled off 13 straight run plays for 208 yards and three touchdowns at the end of the second and beginning of the third quarters. After Washington finally forced a Nebraska punt, Locker was intercepted for the second time with Alfonzo Dennard returning the interception 31 yards for a score.
Rex Burkhead, who finished with 104 yards, added a 19-yard TD run in the fourth quarter for Nebraska.