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Nebraska Football Tommy Armstrong Throwing Ball Against Minnesota
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

QBracket: Chalk Prevails as the Elite Eight is Revealed

March 15, 2021

No UMBCs over Virginia here. The first round of our bracket featured zero upsets. One lower-seeded quarterback got close, but the Elite Eight will feature the top seeds.

A reminder: we only seeded the quarterbacks, we need you to vote on who advances. Monday into Tuesday morning, voting will open for the Elite Eight matchups, so make sure you’re following Hail Varsity on both Twitter and Instagram to vote.

Here are the results from the first round:

  • No. 1 Taylor Martinez defeats No. 16 Andrew Bunch: The electric Martinez took 92% of the vote on Instagram and a whopping 97% of the vote on Twitter. The one-seed you don’t mess with. Bunch got a tough draw here.
  • No. 8 Tanner Lee defeats No. 9 Sam Keller: Lee’s one playing season in Nebraska didn’t feature a lot of Ws, so this was a nice change of pace for him. Still, he put up numbers and those were respected by voters. Lee got 67% of the vote on Instagram and 61% of the vote on Twitter.
  • No. 4 Jammal Lord defeats No. 13 Noah Vedral: The closest matchup of the round. Lord took the Twitter result with 84% of the vote, but Vedral got 45% of the vote on Instagram, the highest percentage by the lower seed on either platform. Oh, what could have been?
  • No. 5 Tommy Armstrong Jr. defeats No. 12 Luke McCaffrey: I’d argue Armstrong is like the five-seed no one wants to play in the tournament. Disrespected, lots of people arguing they’re too low. His career numbers go right up against our one-seed across the board. And, fittingly, he got 94% of the Twitter vote. He only got 80% of the vote on Instagram, but, nevertheless, he’s moving on.
  • No. 2 Zac Taylor defeats No. 15 Ryker Fyfe: The current NFL head coach got 96% of the Twitter vote and 87% of the Instagram vote. Taylor is gonna be a tough out in this bracket, and his first-round edge proved that.
  • No. 7 Zac Lee defeats No. 10 Cody Green: Did I vote for the underdog here? I did. Did that underdog win? Nope. But it wasn’t the healthy margin near everyone else experienced. Lee got 75% of the Twitter vote and 78% of the Instagram vote.
  • No. 3 Joe Ganz defeats No. 14 Ron Kellogg III: Many’s darkhorse contender, Ganz dominated the Twitter vote with 90% of responses going his way. But Kellogg took off 32% of the Instagram vote. Ganz is moving on, but it’s noteworthy moving forward that his pull on Instagram wasn’t outstanding over a much lower seed.
  • No. 6 Adrian Martinez defeats No. 11 Joe Dailey: The current Husker quarterback, Martinez did just fine against one of our most senior signal-callers. Martinez took 85% of the Twitter vote and 83% of the Instagram vote.

Here’s what the bracket looks like now:

  • No. 1 Taylor Martinez vs. No. 8 Tanner Lee
  • No. 4 Jammal Lord vs. No. 5 Tommy Armstrong Jr.
  • No. 2 Zac Taylor vs. No. 7 Zac Lee (THE BATTLE FOR THE ONE TRUE ZAC)
  • No. 3 Joe Ganz vs. No. 6 Adrian Martinez

Now it gets interesting.

A refresher on the remaining field, which can also be found here.

No. 1: Taylor Martinez (2009-13)

Record as a starter: 29-14

Career stats: 7,258 passing yards, 59.8% completion rate, 56 passing touchdowns against 29 interceptions, 2,975 rushing yards, 31 rushing touchdowns

Despite an injury-shortened four-game senior season, Taylor Martinez departed Nebraska with a dripping red pen in hand after rewriting the program’s record books. A two-time captain, Martinez set career program records for total offense, passing yards, completions, touchdowns, and starts. 

He also broke the single-season program records for total offense and total touchdowns thanks to a prolific 2012 campaign. He produced 3,890 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading the Huskers to a 10-4 record, a Big Ten Championship appearance, and a Capital One Bowl appearance.

Jammal Lord is the only quarterback on our list to even come close to matching the kind of rushing production Martinez had as a Husker, and Martinez has north of 7,000 passing yards in his three-ish seasons of play.

No. 2: Zac Taylor (2005-06)

Record as a starter: 17-9

Career stats: 5,850 passing yards, 57.2% completion rate, 45 passing touchdowns against 20 interceptions, minus-73 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns

A junior college quarterback after transferring from Wake Forest, Zac Taylor took the reins immediately at Nebraska in 2005 and started the next 26 games. He led Nebraska under then-coach Bill Callahan to 8-4 and 9-5 records in his two seasons. 

His 2006 campaign—which earned him the Big 12’s Offensive Player of the Year award—remains the best season by a Husker quarterback in terms of touchdowns thrown (26) and second-best in terms of yardage accumulated (3,197).

No. 3: Joe Ganz (2004-08)

Record as a starter: 10-6

Career stats: 5,125 passing yards, 65.1% completion rate, 44 passing touchdowns against 18 interceptions, 341 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns

Ganz perhaps best represents the old age of college quarterbacks. He redshirted in 2004 and won scout team MVP. He sat behind Zac Taylor in 2005 but never saw a snap. He backed up Taylor again in 2006, played in five games, but only threw 13 passes. He then lost the starting job to Sam Keller ahead of the 2007 season and sat on the bench for the first eight games, appearing only twice. 

When Keller went down with an injury, Ganz grabbed the job and never looked back. 

He owns single-game program records for passing attempts, yards, and touchdowns. A 510-yard, seven-score day against Kansas State in November of 2007 stands as the most productive single game by a Nebraska quarterback of all time. 

His 2008 single-season record for completion percentage (67.86%) stood until this past season. His single-season records of 3,568 yards and yards per game still stand. He also owns the program record for career completion percentage, yards per attempt, and passer rating. 

No. 4: Jammal Lord (1999-2003)

Record as a starter: 17-10

Career stats: 2,848 passing yards, 48% completion rate, 18 passing touchdowns against 22 interceptions, 2,573 rushing yards, 24 rushing touchdowns

It’s never easy to follow a legend. Complicating matters, Nebraska had won double-digit games in eight of its last nine seasons when Lord won the starting job ahead of the 2002 season. Nebraska had gone from Tommie Frazier to Scott Frost to Eric Crouch. 

After a 7-7 season in 2002, Lord helped pilot Nebraska to a 10-3 record in 2003. His play earned him an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection by league coaches. 

No. 5: Tommy Armstrong Jr. (2012-16)

Record as a starter: 30-14

Career stats: 8,871 passing yards, 53.3% completion rate, 67 passing touchdowns against 44 interceptions, 1,819 rushing yards, 23 rushing touchdowns

Purely from a numbers standpoint, Tommy Armstrong Jr. has a case to be one of Nebraska’s all-time quarterbacks. He won the vast majority of his games as a starter, he owns career records for passing yards, total offense, passing touchdowns, and total touchdowns. Of course, it wasn’t all just about the production with Armstrong. 

He took over mid-season in 2013 after Taylor Martinez went down injured, and went 7-1 as a starter as a redshirt freshman. As a full-time starter in each of his final three seasons, Armstrong helped guide Nebraska to a 9-4 record twice and a 6-7 record in 2015, the first season under former coach Mike Riley.

No. 6: Adrian Martinez (2018-present)

Record as a starter: 11-16

Career stats: 5,628 passing yards, 64.2% completion rate, 31 passing touchdowns against 20 interceptions, 1,776 rushing yards, 22 rushing touchdowns

One of four active quarterbacks on this list, Adrian Martinez’s story is well-known. When Scott Frost took the head coaching job in December of 2017, he identified Martinez as the quarterback who was going to set the table for his Nebraska rebuild. 

Martinez has piloted three losing seasons in each of his first three years on campus, but he became the first true freshman quarterback to start a season-opening game in program history in 2018, and in the three years since, has produced at a pace that has him on track to own just about every quarterback record by the time he’s done. 

A Freshman All-American in 2018, Martinez went through a down year in 2019, but appears to be on the bounceback after his close to the 2020 campaign. As a junior, Martinez broke the program record for completion percentage in a season (71.5%).

No. 7: Zac Lee (2007-10)

Record as a starter: 8-4

Career stats: 2,250 passing yards, 58.3% completion rate, 14 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, 245 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown

After working as a reserve in his first two seasons, Lee became Nebraska’s season-opening starter in 2009 as a junior. He started the first seven games of the season, then came off the bench against Oklahoma and threw the game’s only touchdown, the decisive one in a 10-3 win. The starting job was once again his from that point on as the Huskers won four of their final five games. 

Lee lost the battle to Taylor Martinez in the run up to the 2010 season, but still saw time when Martinez went down with injury.

No. 8: Tanner Lee (2016-17)

Record as starter: 4-8

Career stats: 3,143 passing yards, 57.5% completion rate, 23 touchdowns against 16 interceptions, minus-97 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns

Another one-hit wonder on the list, Tanner Lee transferred to Nebraska ahead of the 2016 season after 19 starts in two years at Tulane. He sat the 2016 season and entered into the 2017 offseason as the clear-cut starter following up Tommy Armstrong’s just-finished career. 

Lee was a preseason darling, but the hype never really translated to the field. 

A pair of first-quarter pick-sixes against Northern Illinois set the table for a gloomy day and forecasted a gloomy season. Nebraska lost 21-17 that day, which led to the firing of Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst. The Huskers would go on to lose six of their final seven games, resulting in Mike Riley’s firing. 

Throughout the year, though. Lee put up numbers, there’s no doubting that. How hollow were they? Well… Nebraska trailed in games often and Lee was relied on to carry the offense. His 428 pass attempts in 2017 were two shy of a single-season program record. His 3,143 yards rank third all-time for a season in program history. 



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