Photo Credit: Eric Francis

QBracket: Final Four Cases for Taylor Martinez, Tommy Armstrong Jr.

March 17, 2021

Now in the Final Four of our QB Bracket, we’ve reached a matchup many were hopeful to see: Taylor Martinez vs. Tommy Armstrong Jr.

The resumes are similar—10,233 yards of total offense and 87 career touchdowns for Martinez and 10,690 yards of total offense and 90 career touchdowns for Armstrong—so who moves on? Husker fans can vote on the matchup on Hail Varsity’s Twitter and Instagram pages, so you’ll determine the answer to that question. 

Who’s most deserving? Here’s a case for both. 

The Case for Taylor Martinez

The California product has the always-mystifying “what if?” component attached to his Husker legacy. Anytime a former player has that, they’re going to be remembered fondly. “Yeah he was good, but what if he didn’t get hurt? He could have been better. What could have been?”

Martinez’s case to be Nebraska’s best quarterback of the last 20 years is two-fold: he took the team higher, and we’ll never know what might have been in his senior season had he not been injured. 

You know the accolades by now. 

A two-time captain, Martinez set career program records for total offense, passing yards, completions, touchdowns, and starts during his time at Nebraska. His 2,975 career rushing yards rank second all-time by a Cornhusker quarterback.

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.

That season could serve as the differentiator. Nebraska was 7-1 in conference play, the best conference record a Nebraska team had produced since Eric Crouch’s 2001 campaign. Nebraska beat Wisconsin 30-27 to open the conference slate after trailing 27-10 at one point in the third quarter. 

Martinez had 181 yards passing, 107 yards rushing, and three total touchdowns that day. 

Nebraska was blown out at Ohio State the following week, but then rattled off six straight wins to claim the Legends Division crown and book what remains the program’s only trip to the Big Ten Championship game. 

A foot injury took away his senior season, one that was later revealed to have been suffered in the fourth quarter of Nebraska’s 2013 season-opener against Wyoming. Nebraska blew a 21-3 lead in an early-season ranked matchup with UCLA, of which Martinez was a part, and he only played one more game after that—a month later in an 11-point loss to Minnesota. 

Nebraska was 9-4 that season thanks in part to Martinez’s backups, Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III. But if not for Martinez’s injury—a “plantar plate tear” of the second MPJ in his left foot—would Nebraska have been able to return to the Big Ten title game? 

Martinez’s brilliance pre-injury might suggest that answer would have been yes.

Martinez never lost more than four games in a season, Armstrong had a 6-7 campaign to his name and in 2016 was part of three blowouts in five regular-season games to close out the conference slate. 

The Case for Tommy Armstrong Jr.

The crossover quarterback, Armstrong played for both Bo Pelini and Mike Riley. Despite learning two different offenses, Armstrong finished his career with program records (he still owns) for passing yards, total offense, passing touchdowns, and total touchdowns.

If the former Texas quarterback comes out on top, it might be his end-to-end production. 

Armstrong went 7-1 as a starter when Martinez went down in 2013. He then started every game in 2014, compiling a 9-4 record. 

During that season Armstrong was brilliant. He threw for 2,695 yards (7.8 per attempt) and 22 touchdowns against 12 picks. He also rushed for 705 yards and nine scores and caught a 16-yard receiving touchdown. 

In 2015, Armstrong played in 12 of the team’s 13 games (6-6 as the starter) and put up 3,430 yards of total offense and 29 total touchdowns. It was NU’s first season without tailback Ammer Abdullah and more of the offensive emphasis was on Armstrong to move the ball threw the air. His interceptions rose from 12 to 16, but he complete a career-high 55% of his throws. 

In 2016, Armstrong got Nebraska off to a 7-0 start and an 8-3 record with him running the show. 

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