LINCOLN — Tommy Armstrong has been here before. At Steele High School in Cibolo, Texas, he was thrust into action as a young guy to lead the way at quarterback.
Against South Dakota State in Lincoln Saturday in his first start at Nebraska, the redshirt freshman was thrown to the wolves — asked to carry the load in the absence of Taylor Martinez who was sidelined with a turf toe injury.
From the first snap Armstrong was in command and running the Nebraska spread offense to near perfection, helping NU rack up 645 yards of total offense in a 59-20 win over the Jackrabbits.
Going into the game Armstrong and senior Ron Kellogg knew they would be alternating every two offensive series, as Martinez watched from the sidelines wearing a headset.
Armstrong said he learned early in the week that he would be called to lead the offense. He responded with 169 yards passing on 12-of-15 passing, including a 16-yard touchdown strike to Sam Burtch. Armstrong rushed five times for 38 yards.
"I was told by coach (Tim) Beck 'we're going to put you out there first,'" Armstrong said. "Taylor told me to be patient and don't try to win the game myself. Coming up here wasn't anything new, to come in as a young guy. We're all a family. We take criticism from each other.
"Honestly, I couldn't sleep last night. My whole thing is to compete and be the No. 1 guy. They told me Taylor might one day go down."
Kellogg said that both he and Armstrong benefited from being able to talk to Martinez about the offense after every series.
"At first he didn't know how to turn the headset on," Kellogg said about Martinez. "It was awesome to come off the field to talk football with him."
Though much is often made about who is the No. 2 or No. 3 guy on the depth chart, Kellogg said all the quarterbacks want what's best for the team.
"Whoever is the better quarterback that week should play," Kellogg said. "I'll be a supporter of anyone who goes out there."
Receiver Quincy Enunwa said it doesn't matter which quarterback is on the field, although Armstrong is the more athletic of the two.
"With our quarterbacks you never want to have a backup that's not ready to play," he said. "He definitely has the confidence from winning in high school."
Armstrong said the offensive line made it easy to make the right reads and hit receivers.
"I probably got touched once or twice," he said. "They gave me good protection. They told me to do what I do during practice."
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini said it doesn't matter whether Kellogg or Armstrong are leading the offense.
"We have a lot of confidence in Tommy and Ron," Pelini said. "When you see them do it in the game it's a lot easier to have confidence. I thought they managed the game well. They walked into that huddle and were playing with a swagger."
Kellogg finished with 136 yards passing and completed eight of nine attempts. He led Nebraska on a 79-yard, one minute, 29-second drive near the end of the half, ending in a field goal.