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Armstrong Owns his Mistakes

The old line about quarterbacks is that they get too much credit when a team wins and too much blame when it loses. One of the keys to being a quarterback, however, might be fighting that aphorism at both ends, resisting the feelings of adulation or persecution and staying put somewhere in the middle.

Two days after committing three of Nebraska’s five turnovers in the 41-28 loss to Michigan State, Tommy Armstrong Jr. sounded like one of those quarterbacks.

“We prepared the right way, just couldn’t hold onto the ball,” Armstrong said at the Huskers’ weekly press conference. “We put our defense in a couple binds here and there and most of those were my fault and I take blame for it. I’ve just got to take care of the football.”

Things spun out of control early for Armstrong. On the third play of the game, after the Huskers had already picked up a first down on the first two, running back Terrell Newby couldn’t handle a pitch from Armstrong that was slightly high and behind him. The next series, Armstrong threw an interception, his seventh this season. There were still two more fumbles still to come, each of which set the Spartans up deep in Nebraska territory and resulted in touchdowns.

Armstrong, who quarterbacked Cibolo Steele High School to back-to-back trips to the Texas 5A state championship game as a junior and senior, said he’s never had a game go like that for him, but vowed to be better for it.

“That’s part of growing,” he said. “College is totally different from high school and those are some of the bumps and bruises I’m going to have to get over. Those are some things I’m going to have to work on.”

According to coach Bo Pelini, there’s no question that Armstrong is still the starting quarterback headed into the Penn State game this week. There’s also little question of whether or not the freshman still has the support of his teammates.

After the game, running back Imani Cross sent Armstrong a text reading: “No matter if you’re a quarterback who throws 100 touchdowns and zero interceptions or you don’t throw any touchdowns and 100 interceptions, I’m still going to trust you.”

“That touched me a lot,” Armstrong said. “(It) told me that, no matter what the outcome of the games are, my teammates have my back.”

A few other notes from Monday’s press conference:

–On the injury front, Pelini said he thinks Jeremiah Sirles will be available this week but almost everything beyond that is a little up in the air this early in the week. Cole Pensick and Alonzo Moore are both slightly dinged up and would be considered questionable right now. Josh Banderas was injured slightly last week (achilles) during practice, limiting his snaps against the Spartans.

Defensive back Daniel Davie, however, suffered a ligament tear in his knee and will miss the rest of the season. The injury could keep him out for some or all of spring football depending on the severity and his recovery time.

–Defensive end Randy Gregory added a sack against Michigan State to bring his league-leading total to 7.5 and remains Nebraska’s most dynamic defender. Dynamic enough that the NFL talk has already started for the redshirt sophomore. Here’s how Pelini responded when asked if Gregory was ready for the next level:

“Right now? No. He will be. But he’s got a lot to learn right now.”

Pelini was reluctant to draw comparisons, but the name of former Patriots’ linebacker Willie McGinest did come up due to Gregory’s unique blend of talents.

“To be able to combine the power and strength with his athleticism and speed to come off the edge and the wiggle he has in the pass rush, it’s a great combination,” Pelini said. “It’s why it’s such a priority at the NFL level. When they’re watching film for the draft they’re looking for that type of guy.”

–With the Huskers out of the Big Ten title picture, a lot of people are starting to wonder if there’s pressure on Pelini to win these next two games. He said he always feels it.

“At the end of the day, my job is to win football games. That’s my approach. I’m not changing my approach regardless of what situation we’re in,” he said.