Nationals

Martinez might need title to rank with Neb greats

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Martinez might need title to rank with Neb greats

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska's Taylor Martinez is set to break 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch's school career total-offense record Saturday against Michigan State.

Only a junior, Martinez could finish his career as one of college football's most prolific quarterbacks ever.

But can he be judged as one of the Cornhuskers' all-time great quarterbacks if he doesn't win a championship of some kind?

``That's the golden question that people are going to have to ask themselves,'' Crouch said Wednesday.

The 21st-ranked Huskers (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) lead the Legends Division, and Martinez could put himself into the conversation if he leads them to the conference championship game and Rose Bowl this season, next season or both.

The closest he's come to winning a title was in 2010, when the Huskers lost the Big 12 championship game to Oklahoma after blowing a 17-0 lead.

Martinez goes into the Michigan State game 23-10 as the starter, a modest record by program standards. He's had mixed results in the most important games. He's yet to win a bowl game.

The Huskers' days of dominance are well behind them, and Martinez simply doesn't have the same level of talent surrounding him as some of his predecessors.

Tommie Frazier (1992-95) and Jerry Tagge (1969-71) are revered among the Nebraska faithful because each won two national championships.

Turner Gill (1981-83) is beloved for winning three straight Big Eight titles, never losing a conference game. He also threw the memorable failed two-point conversion pass in the 1984 Orange Bowl that cost the Huskers the national title but won coach Tom Osborne respect for having the guts to go for a win instead of a tie against Miami.

Scott Frost (1996-97) would get mention from fans as an all-time great for sending Osborne into his coaching retirement with a share of the national championship - even though some folks still hold a grudge against the homegrown Frost for going to Stanford before transferring to Nebraska.

Crouch won just one Big 12 title and lost to Miami in the national championship game after the 2001 season but did, after all, win the Heisman.

Martinez will have better numbers than all of them by the time he's finished. That's largely because he'll be a four-year starter, unless the unexpected happens, and will have played in an offense that lends itself to big quarterback statistics.

Gill, Frazier, Frost and Crouch operated in the triple-option and, thus, didn't throw nearly as many passes as Martinez.

Martinez has generated 7,801 yards in total offense, 114 shy of Crouch's record of 7,915.

He eclipsed 5,000 career passing yards against Northwestern two weeks ago. He's on track this season to become the 15th player in NCAA history to throw for 5,000 yards and rush for 2,500. He would be the fourth to do it before his senior year.

Martinez has earned the respect of teammates for his toughness and ability to direct the no-huddle offense.

``Taylor's a phenomenal leader and a phenomenal quarterback, in my opinion,'' offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said. ``I think he's done a really good job managing the game as far as the tempo goes.''

Still, Martinez is still looking for that elusive championship - not to mention a season that ends with fewer than four losses.

``The numbers don't mean a whole lot if the wins aren't there,'' Crouch said. ``So a lot of it comes down to winning. You say it's spectacular and it's a great accomplishment to have great numbers, high numbers. I'm sure Martinez would trade those in for conference championships and national championships if you asked him.''

Martinez isn't much for talk.

Nebraska quarterbacks always have lived in a fishbowl. But Martinez is playing at a time when college football players, and athletes in general, are endlessly scrutinized through traditional and social media.

``I think Taylor has taken a lot of hits,'' coach Bo Pelini said this week. ``I think he's done a lot of great things since he's been here. I think the best part about it is there is still a lot more out there for him... I think he's become mentally tougher through all the things he's gone through.''

Martinez has been skewered for his decision-making, unconventional throwing motion and fumbling. People who know him say he is shy. In the best of times he is terse with the media, and his short and sometimes disjointed answers to questions have not endeared him to the public.

Crouch doesn't blame Martinez for staying in his shell.

``People, not just the media, want to pick everything apart,'' Crouch said. ``In a day and age where everyone has an opinion and a voice, it makes it different than it was 10-15 years ago.''

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… and if that leads us to Bryce Harper’s potential landing spot, then I present to you the yummiest reasons he should stay with the Washington Nationals.

In a video from TMZ, a paparazzi follows Harper to baggage claim and implores him for any hints toward where he is signing this offseason. The only true answer he got was that Harper likes a place called Steak 48 in Chicago. This surf-and-turf hot spot in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago has the audacity to serve “Maryland STYLE lump crab cakes.” Really, Bryce? Will the real thing convince you?!

On that note, let’s start off with the seafood we have to offer. This is the Mid-Atlantic, after all.

How can you work here April-September without eating local crabs in some form? I think that’s impossible. You can choose from hard shell or soft shell, but no shame in either game.

Live Chesapeake blue crabs can be bought at Captain White’s Seafood and other vendors on The Wharf off Maine Avenue. Otherwise, you can sit down and have them steamed for you at Quarterdeck, Ivy City Smokehouse, Bethesda Crab House or Captain Pell’s.

If Harper is more of a soft shell guy, all of those places also serve out-of-the-park crab cakes, but you can’t go wrong with Hank’s Oyster Bar, Old Ebbitt Grill, Chris’ Marketplace, or Clyde’s.

If the star really wants to dive in to local taste, he should eat Chesapeake Bay oysters from the largest estuary in America. My personal favorite selection is at Whaley’s (seafood tower on me, Bryce), but Rapphanock Oyster Bar, The Dabney, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black’s Bar & Kitchen can’t be beat.

I find it hard to believe the team hasn't had an outing at The Salt Line, the lively seafood spot just a short throw from Nats Park where teammate Ryan Zimmerman is an investor and co-owner.

Now that we’ve satisfied Harper’s iron intake, let’s break down his protein. In order to keep the superstar here, I want to make sure he knows that D.C. cares about providing a well-rounded diet.

Barbecued meats in general around here are delectable. Sitting in juxtaposition between the north and south, D.C. restaurants bring a mash-up of styles of smoked and sauced meats. Favorites are Federalist Pig, Hill Country, Fat Pete’s and Hardy’s BBQ truck.

However, if Bryce Harper show he’s as invested in authentic Nationals fans as our season tickets are in him, he should really pick up a half-smoke, the district’s original recipe for a spicy, thicker pork and beef dog that’s aggressively seasoned and sometimes served with chili sauce.

Could you imagine Harper making his announcement to stay over a half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl? I think even the panda statue would cry tears of joy.

Another hyper-local taste is mumbo sauce. While proven not originally from here, D.C. natives are enthusiastic about the special sauce. Yum’s is pretty well-known for carrying it.

Time for dessert! I think we can all agree that in the past 10 years, cupcakes have become iconic in the district with Georgetown Cupcakes, Baked & Wired and Sprinkles all having a home in Georgetown. To settle the debate, Baked & Wired is best. They are ranked #1 on Yelp if you don’t believe my own palette.

But what if it’s game night, you ask? D.C. has it’s hearty share of restaurants that are open even after extra innings. The Diner, Kramerbooks, Mandu, New Big Wong, Old Ebbitt Grill, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Amsterdam Falafelshop and Jumbo Slice are all here to keep you warm at night no matter what you’re craving post-victory. Need I go on?

Bryce reassured Nats fans and TMZ that he is “still a National right now.” Better eat these while you can, Bryce, or you’ll be sorry you didn't sign in one of the best food cities in the MLB.

Do you have any local food or restaurants you think will convince Bryce Harper to stay with the Washington Nationals this offseason? Send them to @NBCNationals or @rmhopmayer. Maybe we can throw together a friends-giving or holiday dinner for those that want him to stay our beloved Guest of Honor.

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 

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