LINCOLN — The quarterback with the most starts at the position in Nebraska history gave his young replacement a piece of advice during the disappointing aftermath of the Huskers' loss Saturday.
The message from Taylor Martinez sounded something like this: Discard the misery-soaked emotions — because now it's about responding the right way.
It's become Tommy Armstrong's goal now. No time for heartbreak. The redshirt freshman takes full responsibility for the interception and two fumbles that proved costly during NU's 41-28 defeat to Michigan State, but he's doing his best to move on the way his injured mentor has encouraged him to.
“That's part of growing,” Armstrong said. “Those are some of the bumps and bruises that I'm going to have to get over as being a quarterback here.”
Armstrong can rest easy knowing he still has the full support of his coaches and teammates.
Coach Bo Pelini said Monday that Armstrong will start against Penn State Saturday. Armstrong received a text message after Saturday's game from sophomore Imani Cross, who reminded the offense's new leader that the team's trust in him has not wavered.
Pelini said Monday that the main challenge for Armstrong is to avoid placing too much blame on himself, which could hurt his preparation for the Nittany Lions.
“He's got to be able to move past something and not let it affect him moving forward,” Pelini said.
It's the basic goal for the entire Nebraska team, really.
The Huskers are out of contention for a spot in the Big Ten title game, their clear goal at the start of the season. More players seem to be joining the injury report by the day, and another slugfest is looming. Criticism of the program is becoming more difficult to ignore, too.
Yet the NU players can't allow themselves to change their approach, redshirt freshman linebacker Michael Rose said.
“(There's) no need to pack up the tent and put up our white flag,” Rose said. “We've still got two games and a bowl game left waiting for us. We'll continue to work hard and send these seniors out on the right foot.”
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Those same seniors will make sure every Husker has that attitude this week, said offensive tackle Brent Qvale. He thinks the team will bounce back the same way it did after losses to UCLA and Minnesota.
“It's up to us as seniors to be able to motivate these guys,” Qvale said. “We're playing for pride now.”
There's a sense, too, that these Husker players don't want to see their season snowball from here. Their competitive instincts are motivation enough.
That's apparently part of what will fuel Armstrong, who's working to eliminate the errors that plagued him against the Spartans.
“Mistakes killed us. Most of that was on me,” he said. “I have to fix that.”
He acknowledged that his confidence was shaken a bit early in Saturday's game, but he backed away from accepting any excuses for his miscues Monday.
Armstrong said he didn't prepare any differently. It was a high-pressure matchup against a talented defense with Nebraska's title hopes on the line, but he wasn't excessively nervous. His inexperience didn't hold him back. The game wasn't moving so fast that he couldn't manage it, either.
Said Armstrong: “I've got to hold on to the football. I've got to put the ball on my receivers.”
He'll press forward in preparation for Penn State with that in mind. He's had seven interceptions and two lost fumbles in his past four starts. But there's no reason to dwell on the miscues now.
“We want to finish strong,” Armstrong said. “Last week is last week.”
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Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini
Video: Brent Qvale
Video: Ameer Abdullah
Video: Tommy Armstrong