Taylor Martinez wasn't supposed to return until he was 100-percent healthy. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said it repeatedly the past month.
But there Martinez was, starting against Minnesota — anything but at full strength. The senior quarterback acknowledged as much Saturday after the Cornhuskers' 34-23 loss to the Gophers.
Martinez also said the injury to his left foot had been inaccurately described to the media as turf toe, which is a sprain of the ligaments around the big toe joint. The injury actually is to his second and third toes. He declined to comment when asked if either of the toes were sprained or broken.
"It's been a very rough past month, five weeks or whatever it's been," Martinez said. "Pretty much living in that training room and trying to get my foot healthy, as healthy as possible, as much as I can tolerate it."
Pelini, during his postgame news conference in Minneapolis, didn't speak directly to why Martinez started.
"Let's not go there and act like Taylor Martinez lost this football game for us," Pelini said. "Our problems today were far beyond who our quarterback was. That was a team loss."
Martinez completed 16 of 30 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. His receivers dropped at least four catchable balls, and he threw a meaningless interception at the end of the game.
Martinez, whose straight-ahead speed is his greatest asset, was sacked four times and netted 16 yards on eight carries. "Every time I push off, it shocks me," he said, referring to his left foot.
Martinez said he originally hurt his foot and left (non-throwing) shoulder in the opener against Wyoming, but he remained in the lineup through the Sept. 14 loss to UCLA. Martinez said his shoulder still bothers him, but not as much as his foot.
Tommy Armstrong started and shared playing time with Ron Kellogg III in wins against three overmatched opponents. The Minnesota game, which came after a bye, started a six-week stretch of games that will decide if the Cornhuskers (5-2, 2-1) make it back to the Big Ten championship game. Nebraska hosts Northwestern (4-4, 0-4) this week.
"Today I thought the best interest of the team was for me to come back and go on the six-week stretch," Martinez said.
Pelini said he wouldn't have been against Armstrong relieving Martinez if offensive coordinator Tim Beck had wanted the redshirt freshman to play. Martinez said he went into the game expecting Armstrong would play some.
"But it turned into a game," he said, "so we just left me out there."
Martinez said his injury probably was described publicly as turf toe because it's a commonly understood ailment. He said he's been told the injury he has — whatever it is — can take three or four months to heal.
Asked how close he is to 100 percent, Martinez said, "I'm getting there."