The Cornhuskers (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) rallied from 12 down in the fourth, taking a one-point lead when Martinez hit Ben Cotton with a 7-yard pass with just more than 2 minutes left, and hung on when a 53-yard field goal attempt by Northwestern's Jeff Budzien barely missed wide right with 1:10 remaining. That kept Nebraska in the thick of the Legends division race after being blown out at Ohio State two weeks earlier.
The Cornhuskers can thank Martinez for that. He led them to two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and completed 27-of-39 passes in the game, helping Nebraska rack up 543 yards of total offense.
Quincy Enunwa added 110 yards receiving, while Kenny Bell caught six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Ameer Abdullah ran for 101 yards on a day when Rex Burkhead left with an unspecified injury after a short run early on.
Venric Mark led Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) with 118 yards rushing, including an 80-yard touchdown that made it an 11-point game early in the third. Trevor Siemian threw for two touchdowns but was just 15 of 35 for 116 yards as the Wildcats lost for the second time in three games.
Things were looking good for Northwestern until the closing minutes.
Quiet in the first half after rushing for 182 yards against Minnesota the previous week, Mark broke through a massive hole in the middle early in the third quarter on that 80-yard run, making it 21-10.
Martinez made it a five-point game when he ran it in from the 3 with just over a minute left in the third, the two-point conversion run failing. But Northwestern's Mike Trumpy made it 28-16 early in the fourth following a gutsy decision to go for it on fourth-and-inches at the 5. Kain Colter bounced off the pack and spun for a 2-yard gain to keep the drive going, and Trumpy ran it in on the next play.
Nebraska quickly responded with an 80-yard scoring drive, Martinez's 7-yard pass to Taariq Allen capping the drive and drawing loud cheers from the large contingent of Cornhuskers fans. They were really roaring after Cotton caught the go-ahead TD pass, and so was he, for that matter. He stood in the back of the end zone and let one out as teammates mobbed him.
Nothing was easy about this one, but Nebraska could at least breathe a little easier, particularly after that 63-38 loss at Ohio State.
Joey Counts scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal with 2 seconds left to give Montana a 38-35 victory over four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State on Saturday.
Transfer Vernon Adams will be the starting quarterback when Oregon begins its season against Eastern Washington on Sept. 5.
Tim Beckman is threatening legal action after Illinois fired him as football coach Friday amid allegations of influencing medical decisions and pressuring players to play hurt.
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron revealed in a post-practice news conference that he has been treated for prostate cancer but plans to coach this season.
The woman who accused former Baylor defensive end Sam Ukwuachu of raping her in 2013 has hired a Title IX law firm to represent her in potential civil litigation.
Arkansas tight end C.J. O'Grady has been arrested by Fayetteville police and charged with driving while intoxicated and being a minor in possession of alcohol.