In the wake of his poor performance Saturday, Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong remains the No. 1 guy for Bo Pelini, the coach said at his Monday press conference.
Armstrong completed 6 of 18 passes for 62 yards one touchdown and one interception in a 59-24 loss at Wisconsin. He was also responsible for two more fumbles. Sacked four times, he ran 20 times for 17 yards. Despite requests from the media, Armstrong didn't talk Monday. Pelini defended him.
“I think he's disappointed,” Pelini said. “But where he is, I still think he's a good football player. He's a competitor. He'll be better going forward. I believe that. He'll continue to work.”
Though starting jobs are always theoretically open in Nebraska's system, Pelini rebuffed any notion that backups Ryker Fyfe or Johnny Stanton would get a look at starting against Minnesota.
“The other guys are capable, but I think Tommy's the guy who gives us the best chance to win right now,” Pelini said.
In his seven-year tenure with Nebraska, Pelini has rarely replaced his starting quarterback so long as his starter was healthy.
In 2009, Pelini benched Zac Lee after consecutive losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State. Cody Green led NU to a win over Baylor, but Pelini re-inserted Lee early in a 10-3 over Oklahoma. Lee started the rest of NU's games. In 2010, Pelini benched Taylor Martinez midway through a 20-13 loss to Texas – he inserted Lee for most of the second half – but expressed regret at having done so in the days following the game. Martinez started every game – in which he was healthy enough to play – for the rest of his career, which was ultimately cut short by a foot injury during his senior year. In 2013, once Martinez got hurt, Pelini started Armstrong and alternated him with Ron Kellogg III until Armstrong missed the Iowa game with an injury. Kellogg started that game.
“I'd always consider it if I thought it was the best thing for our football team,” Pelini said of making quarterback changes. “I'd always consider it. I don't care what position it is. You're always trying to make yourself better.”
Pelini said Armstrong made strides in the two weeks of preparation before the Wisconsin game, following an equally poor performance against Purdue, in which Armstrong completed 8 of 21 passes. But his footwork and mechanics weren't good enough against the Badgers.
“He got in the game and he got outside of himself,” Pelini said. “I don't know whether he was feeling the rush or his adrenaline took over. You have to stay focused, stick with the details and play within yourself.”
Wide receiver Brandon Reilly said Armstrong was “getting pretty frustrated” as the game wore on. Reilly added that Armstrong didn't get much help from the rest of the offense.
“Tommy may be feeling stressed a little more, afraid he's going to be sacked,” Reilly said. “He has so much going on his plate. We're trying to do too much to help him out and it hasn't been clicking too well. Trying to make the big play before catching the ball, stuff like that.”
Fyfe is the only Husker backup to take snaps when a game has been in doubt this year. Fyfe briefly relieved Armstrong in the Michigan State game when Armstrong got hurt. Nebraska scored a touchdown on the drive. Fyfe completed 1 of 2 passes for 9 yards.
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