Adrian Martinez deserves a better ending than this — if, indeed, we are at the end of his Nebraska career.

Yes, the Cornhuskers’ all-time leader in total offense is absolutely maddening to watch. For every 3 mind-blowing plays he pulls off, he throws in one head-scratcher capable of wiping out all of those gains.

But one thing you can’t say about Martinez is he didn’t leave it all on the field. If someone found, say, a piece of spleen on the Memorial Stadium turf, there’d be no wondering where it came from.

“Oh yeah, Adrian Martinez coughed that up after he got hammered by a Wisconsin linebacker.”

There’s a chance Martinez won’t play another game on that turf. On Monday, Scott Frost announced that Martinez was out for Friday’s season finale against Iowa due to a shoulder injury suffered at Wisconsin.

Naturally, Martinez shouldn’t have even finished the game in Madison.

With that mindset, it’s easy to see why Frost is so enamored with Martinez.

Torn labrum. Sprained ankle. Broken jaw. All these things have failed to keep Martinez off the football field for more than 2 consecutive games in the past 4 years.

But for all the stats accrued and toughness shown, one vitally important aspect to his career remains unfulfilled: a signature win over a rival or a ranked opponent.

Martinez’s record against teams that matter is a long, sad trombone solo.

  • 0-15 against ranked opponents
  • 0-4 against Ohio State
  • 0-3 against Iowa

The season finale against the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes was an opportunity to scratch off the zeroes in 2 of those columns. If Martinez decided to transfer or hang up his cleats after the season, at least he would have ended his Nebraska career on a good note. Or if he decided to stay, the good vibes of getting the monkey off his back would carry through the offseason.

Instead, Martinez and the Huskers are trapped in purgatory.

For his part, Frost says he would like another season with his embattled and battered quarterback wearing red.

“He’s done a ton of really good things at the University of Nebraska,” Frost said at his Monday press conference. “Sometimes it’s been great, sometimes it hasn’t. But I admire and respect him, and he and I’ve been battling through a lot together, and I just appreciate who he is.”

The Logan Smothers Factor

By already agreeing to keep Frost around for another year, Nebraska has elected to go for a storybook ending. So at this point, Martinez might as well be part of it. It feels hollow if they endured all these slings and arrows together only to diverge at the end.

But there’s a chance Logan Smothers makes all of that academic with a star-making performance against Iowa.

Not that it’s likely. Iowa’s defense is 4th nationally in takeaways. But if Smothers is the reason Frost finally beats a ranked opponent, how do you avoid making him your quarterback of the future? The Huskers won’t be a contender next year, but perhaps they could build to the point that a senior Smothers could lead them somewhere in 2023.

At that point, moving on would be the only sensible move for Martinez. Without that signature win, or a proper send-off from the home crowd.

No matter what you think of his play, that outcome stinks.