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Meet Nebraska’s Two Tommy Armstrongs

Tommy Armstrong

Tommy Armstrong

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It appears two players are sharing a single scholarship at Nebraska. At least it seems that way to Husker fans who've been watching Tommy Armstrong for the past few seasons.

Big Red backers have been blaming offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf for things like not teaching proper mechanics, how to make correct reads or Langsdorf’s supposed constant bad play calling that doesn’t put Armstrong in a position to succeed.

Don’t be too quick to point the finger at one of Nebraska’s offensive gurus, though. While Langsdorf isn't free from criticism, Armstrong is far from blameless. No. 4 is making life extremely hard on himself.

For a classic example of "Bad Tommy", let’s examine the Iowa game. It’s rather impressive, with Armstrong going 25-for-45 amassing 296 yards and throwing four picks without a single scoring strike. Despite his game-long errors both big and small, take into account the Huskers only lost by eight. That’s pretty amazing.

Armstrong was seen laughing with friends on the sidelines following interceptions and, after a pick-six off of a screen pass, didn’t seem to take any of the instruction Langsdorf gave him seriously. It raises the question of how much he cares about improving and, may I remind you, we’re talking about the captain quarterback of a major FBS team.

Fans are severely upset about the short yardage fade route that Tommy tried to convert on a fourth and short situation. He shouldn’t have tried to do that in the first place, but not because of the play call. 

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Have a look at this bunch formation. It’s what the fade pass came out of. Note that the bunch has two receivers that come open including a wide open Cethan Carter who managed a career-high 76 yards including three receptions of 20 yards or more in this very game.

Unfortunately, one of Tommy’s worst habits kicked in. He throws to his first target. I have to think he was trying to get a pass interference call or maybe he legitimately thinks it’s a catch his man can haul in. Regardless, he shouldn’t be rolling those dice.

He’s been making questionable calls like this all season long and that’s only underscored by Nebraska’s current minus-13 turnover margin. Langsdorf isn’t responsible for all of Armstrong’s missteps. It’s simply impossible for that much error to be coaching.

Riley sugarcoated the poorly-executed pass attempt as much as possible in the postgame press conference.

“That play has options. One of the options was a hitch route or a converted fade. There is also a combination on the other side. Certainly, he (Armstrong) is able at times to take that fade. You would like to think that we could hit it, but at the same time there were other options on that play.”

As a passer, Armstrong has put up plenty of yardage this season, but he only had three games in which he didn’t throw a pick (South Alabama, Wisconsin and Minnesota). He threw two-plus interceptions in four games (Miami (FL), Michigan State, Rutgers and Iowa).

Plenty of Nebraska fans are already giddy about stud quarterback recruit Patrick O’Brien coming to Lincoln as an early enrollee and potentially bouncing Armstrong out of the starting spot. As much as I like O’Brien, he’s going to have to really be something special to do that. The game speed changes so dramatically that it may be best he sits a year. Naturally, I don’t know what he and Riley have planned.

What can Armstrong do in the meantime? His bad habits can be broken, but the person committing them has to want to break them.

It’s time to find out just how much Good Tommy wants to come out to play.

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and like his Facebook page.