Matured Nebraska QB Armstrong set to face Purdue
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Tommy Armstrong Jr. has grown up a lot since he last faced Purdue.
The Nebraska quarterback turned in one of his worst performances while making his first career road start against the Boilermakers last year.
Sure, the Cornhuskers won by 37 points against an overmatched opponent. But that didn’t do much to make Armstrong feel better about being off target on 12 of 18 passes and throwing three interceptions.
The Boilermakers (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) figure to see a much improved Armstrong when they visit the 17th-ranked Cornhuskers (7-1, 3-1, No. 15 CFP) on Saturday.
The sophomore is one of only three quarterbacks with more than 1,500 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Nevada’s Cody Fajardo are the others.
Armstrong is second in the Big Ten with an average of 276 yards of total offense, and is first in the nation among quarterbacks with 6.5 yarders per carry.
Yeah, he has come a long way since that afternoon in West Lafayette 12 months ago.
”Last year I was young, so they threw a lot at me and I wasn’t ready,” Armstrong said. ”But I have seen a lot of defenses, so I’m prepared for it.”
Armstrong, 14-2 as a starter, throws one of the best deep balls of any quarterback in the Big Ten but continues to struggle at times making short passes. He also threw a bad interception last week against Rutgers.
Still, he leads an offense that’s generating better than 500 yards a game and features one of the nation’s premier running backs in Ameer Abdullah and playmakers such as Kenny Bell, Jordan Westerkamp and DeMornay Pierson-El.
The Huskers are three-touchdown favorites against Purdue. They have an open date next week before finishing against three straight contending West Division opponents.
Armstrong said he knows Nebraska probably needs to win out in convincing fashion and get some help from other teams to have a chance at making the College Football Playoff.
”I’ve told our offense and our team, respect is only given when it’s due,” Armstrong said. ”We have to keep winning. That’s the only way that we are going to earn respect here in Nebraska.”
Things to watch during Purdue’s first visit to Memorial Stadium:
RUN AT RECORDS: Ameer Abdullah needs 555 yards to pass 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier as Nebraska’s career rushing leader and 826 all-purpose yards to break the Big Ten career record set by Wisconsin 1999 Heisman winner Ron Dayne.
Abdullah moved from No. 4 to 2 on the Big Ten’s all-purpose chart last year. One of the players he passed was Ohio State two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin.
”That caught my attention because I was thinking about calling Archie up and saying, `See, you weren’t as good as you thought you were,’ said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who played at Ohio State and grew up in Youngstown, Ohio.
PLAYING RANKED TEAMS TOUGH: The Boilermakers are playing a ranked opponent for the third time this season. They led then-No. 11 Notre Dame late in the second quarter before losing 30-14, and they trailed by a touchdown in the last three minutes against then-No. 8 Michigan State before losing 45-31.
APPLEBY THE ANSWER? Purdue is averaging 447 yards and 35.7 points in the three games since Austin Appleby took over as starting quarterback. The Boilermakers averaged 312 yards and 23.8 points in their first five games.
DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES: Purdue continues to struggle on defense, allowing 429 yards and 31.3 points a game. The Boilermakers are 119th in third-down defense, with opposing offenses converting 49.2 percent.
FRUSTRATED QBs: Nebraska has allowed only two quarterbacks to complete 50 percent of their passes or better. The Huskers are allowing QBs to connect on 48.1 percent for the season, the third-best defensive mark in the nation behind Virginia Tech’s 46.2 percent and TCU’s 46.9.