It was a tough season in Lincoln. Surely you know by now that Nebraska finished 3-9, with all 9 losses coming by single digits, the first time that has happened in college football history. Even after going 1-8 in the Big Ten, the Huskers had an exactly even point differential. We may never see another season like this, ever.

So to commemorate it, let’s give out some awards:

Team MVP: Adrian Martinez

Martinez was a polarizing player for 4 years. The naysayers would say that he never improved from the potential he showed as a true freshman, while his backers would say he never had enough help. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Though he was far from perfect, Martinez had a good season, averaging a career-best 9.4 yards per attempt, a significant increase from the 7.0 he averaged last season. Martinez clearly grew as a downfield passer. He still struggled with turnovers, throwing 10 interceptions.

Here’s how you know he’s the team’s MVP, though. Martinez set the tone for the type of effort to give each and every week. He played through a broken jaw and a badly sprained ankle, even as the losses piled up. He didn’t quit on his team, and I think that played a big part in Nebraska not quitting on this season like other programs around the country tend to do after a few losses. Nebraska was competitive until the very end, and I think Martinez deserves some credit for that.

Offensive MVP: Samori Toure

The South Dakota transfer lived up to the hype, leading Nebraska with 896 receiving yards and 5 TDs, plus an additional rushing score. He always seemed to get open and probably would’ve put up even bigger numbers with a more accurate QB. Toure could catch the ball at all 3 levels, and he commanded attention from defenses and that probably benefitted tight end Austin Allen, who also had a great season. Toure offset the loss of top playmaker Wan’Dale Robinson, who transferred to Kentucky.

Defensive MVP: JoJo Domann

There were so many options here with Nebraska’s defense that consistently stymied opposing offenses. It feels noteworthy that teams like Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan State each had one of their worst offensive games of the season against the Huskers.

With all due respect to Garrett Nelson, Luke Reimer and Deontai Williams, Domann is a terrific choice. He was a swiss-army knife of sorts, playing outside linebacker and nickel back. He finished his career 11th on Nebraska’s solo tackles list. Playing with an injured hand in the final game of his career against Ohio State, he had 9 tackles, 1 TFL, an interception and 2 pass breakups.

Freshman of the Year: Nick Henrich

The inside linebacker finished second on the team with 99 tackles, filling a void left by Will Honas missing the season due to injury. He also had 3 sacks. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops the next few years.

Transfer of the Year: Toure

This is a no-brainer. Toure was so fun to watch this season.

Most improved: Cam Jurgens

The center’s snapping issues were a big storyline in 2020, but he didn’t have too many issues in 2021. He has always had the talent, and it seems he has put it together. He had PFF grades in the 40s the last two years and ranked near the bottom of FBS centers. He bumped that up to 70.8 this season and ranked 46th nationally. I’m not sure if center is his future position at the next level, but he is a great athlete.

Biggest surprise: Austin Allen

Allen has always had the ability, and he was the team’s second-leading receiver in 2020. But he nearly tripled his yardage total this season and turned into a legit weapon. He was PFF’s No. 5 tight end this year. The 6-foot-8 junior is going to have a role for someone in the NFL. That talent with that size is a rare commodity. Good for him.

Play of the Year: Martinez’s run vs. Buffalo

I remember watching this live and thinking for sure he was going down for a sack, but he somehow turned it into a 71-yard gain. I know this was just against Buffalo, but the Huskers were tied midway through the second quarter, and this run changed the game. There were probably other plays that could have contended with this one, but this still stands out to me a few months later.

Win of the Year: Oct. 2 vs. Northwestern

There wasn’t much to choose from on this front, so Nebraska’s only B1G win will have to do. But the Huskers sure got their money’s worth in this one, scoring 3 TDs in the first 11 minutes and never taking their foot off the gas in a 56-7 romp. It was such a lopsided game that Nebraska finished with an even point differential in B1G play despite this being its only win. The Huskers piled up 657 yards while holding Northwestern to 293. After this game, I was convinced Nebraska was the second-best team in the West, behind only Iowa. Ah, what could have been.