Quarterback Tommy Armstrong will get his second career start on Saturday against the Illinois Fighting Illini. With Taylor Martinez still not functioning at one hundred percent, Armstrong gets another opportunity to impress.
While it is widely known that a healthy Martinez will get the nod over Armstrong, if the redshirt freshman is impressive people will start talking. Taylor Martinez has shown moments of brilliance and has matched them with moments of head scratching frustration. He has led monumental comebacks, amazed us with his scrambling ability, and made several highlight reel plays during his four years as a starter. He has won more than a few games for the Huskers on his own.
The problem he faces is an energetic Armstrong who seems to have a much better arm, and unlike Martinez he is willing to run the football. Armstrong is decisive with the football. There is no “deer in the headlights” look with Armstrong. When he throws it is usually on target and with velocity. If the pass requires a soft touch Armstrong can throw with finesse. On top of the zone read/read option Tommy Armstrong can also run the traditional option. It makes him more of a triple threat quarterback.
Taylor Martinez can run the football, but has seemed unwilling to bolt with it in 2013. I am not just talking about the UCLA game where he suffered a turf toe injury. All season long Taylor has been reluctant to run the ball. Without that in his arsenal all that is left is his arm. While we can all agree that his passing has improved, we should also be able to acknowledge that he is not a pure passer.
Today Tommy Armstrong Jr. has an opportunity to showcase his skills for the second time this season. This time it is against a real opponent, not FCS competition. While the Illini defense is nothing to be feared, it is a Big Ten team. One that has already exceeded expectations in 2013.
This game gives Armstrong the opportunity to make people take notice. Not just fans or media, but coaches and players. I don’t think that another impressive showing will win Armstrong the starting job over Martinez. Bo Pelini and Tim Beck have a soft heart for Taylor. They will always defer to him over anyone else at the quarterback position. But if Martinez struggles once he returns, and Armstrong continues to progress, I don’t think they will have an option but to turn to him.