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Perfect Combination: Tommy Armstrong And The Passing Game?

Last year Tommy Armstrong finished the season with a 53.3% completion rate, throwing for 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He finished with 2,695 yards passing and a passer rating of 133.03 which put him 55th in the nation.

Through two games this season, Armstrong has thrown five touchdowns and one interception, hit 63.4% of his passes and has a passer rating of 153.49, putting him at 36th in the nation. The rise in play is despite Armstrong missing his best running back (Ameer Abdullah), his best receiver (Kenny Bell) and his most explosive playmaker (Demornay Pierson-El has been out due to injury so far this season).

Armstrong has done an impressive job of spreading the ball around as evident by Nebraska receiving stats so far this season (Ryker Fyfe's five completions are mixed in as well). Moving the ball around to different receivers should be evidence that Armstrong has matured in going through his progressions, right?


Receiver Receptions Yards Avg/Catch TD Long Avg/Game
Brandon Reilly 10 141 14.1 0 27 70.5
Jordan Westerkamp 10 138 13.8 2 21 69
Alonzo Moore 8 87 10.9 2 22 43.5
Lane Hovey 7 85 12.1 0 25 42.5
Stanley Morgan Jr 5 48 9.6 0 16 24
Terrell Newby 2 38 19 1 30 19
Mikale Wilbon 2 28 14 0 14 14
Jamal Turner 2 21 10.5 0 16 10.5
Taarig Allen 2 21 10.5 0 14 10.5
Trey Foster 1 9 9 1 9 4.5
Luke McNitt 1 6 6 0 6 6


Player Efficiency Cmp-Att-Int Pct Yards TD Long Avg/Game
Tommy Armstrong Jr 153.49 45-71-1 63.4 589 5 30 294.5
Ryker Fyfe 129.6 5-7-1 71.4 33 1 14 33
Jamal Turner 0 0-1-0 0 0 0 0 0

Nebraska is tops in the nation with plays of 10+ yards with 51, 31 of which were pass plays. At 20+ yards, the Huskers drop to 53rd with 10 (eight passing), and at 30+ yards the Huskers drop to 99th with two (one passing). Nebraska has yet to have a play go over 40+ yards this season.

You can register a complaint about the lack of big plays in the passing game, but you can't argue with the consistency. Were Armstrong to keep up this pace - 294.5 yards per game - he will finish the season with 3,534 yards. That would put him just shy of Joe Ganz' single season passing record in 2008 in which Ganz went 285-420 for 3,568 yards. 3,534 yards would blow away Taylor Martinez' record of 2,871 yards in 2012 for a junior quarterback.

Mike Riley was clear that he wanted a passing game. Early on it looks like he's got one. The new Nebraska coaching staff appear to have turned Armstrong into a decent passer. They've taken the Nebraska receiving corps and arguably made them the best in the Big Ten, and that includes resurrecting Alonzo Moore's career when all we heard about him before was his potential.

The passing game clashes with Nebraska's tradition of running the ball, which is to be required at Nebraska mostly because that's how the most successful coaches (Osborne, Devaney) won most of their games. That and the November wind, which you'd swear turned Memorial Stadium into a Siberian Gulag.

Can Armstrong keep up the pace throughout the season? Can Nebraska win a bunch of games without having a solid run game and relying mostly on the pass? Can Nebraska win with that type of offense in November?

Those are the questions to remember through this season. Answers may start coming as soon as tomorrow as Nebraska faces the Miami Hurricanes in Florida.