Nebraska football fans have had one big question over the last month. Who is the better quarterback—senior Taylor Martinez or redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong?
When a turf-toe injury sidelined Martinez following the UCLA game, Armstrong stepped in. Since that moment, a month and three starts have passed for the redshirt freshman.
The question still remains.
There are many ways to compare Martinez and Armstrong. Many have tried. However, there is one comparison that is as simple as matching up numbers.
How do Martinez and Armstrong compare looking only at their first three starts for Nebraska?
|Western Kentucky, W 49-10||9 of 15 for 136 yards, No INT||60%||7 for 127 yards, averaged 18.1 YPC||No passing TDs, three rushing TDS|
|Idaho, W 38-17||12 of 17 for 106 yards, One INT||70.6%||14 for 157 yards, averaged 11.2 YPC||No passing TDs, two rushing touchdowns|
|@Washinton, W 56-21||7 of 11 for 150 yards, No INT||63.6%||19 for 137 yards, averaged 7.2 YPC||One passing TD, three rushing TDs|
|South Dakota State, W 59-20||12 of 15 for 169 yards, No INT||80%||5 for 38 yards, averaged 7.6 YPC||One passing TD, no rushing TD|
|Illinois, W 39-19||8 of 13 for 135 yards, No INT||61.5%||9 for 18 yards, averaged 2 YPC||Two passing TD, no rushing TD|
|@Purdue, W 44-7||6 of 18 for 43 yards, Three INT||33.3%||4 for 5 yards, averaged 1.3 YPC||No passing TD, one rushing TD|
In 2010, Martinez was a redshirt freshman. He made his first three starts against Western Kentucky, Idaho and Washington.
Martinez quickly became known for his ability to run. However, his arm wasn't too shabby in his first three starts, either. Despite his awkward throwing mechanics, Martinez was productive. His completion rate never dropped below 60 percent in his first three starts.
Against Western Kentucky, Martinez's 127 rushing yards represented the first 100-yard rushing day for a Nebraska quarterback since 2003, per Huskers.com. He also boasted the most touchdowns by a Husker freshman in a season opener.
Martinez didn't stop there. His 157 rushing yards against Idaho were the highest for a Nebraska freshman since 1996. His momentum carried the team into the Washington game, where Martinez left with Big 12 and national freshman-of-the-week honors.
Four seasons later, a new quarterback has stepped in. While only temporary, Armstrong has provided three starts (against South Dakota State, Illinois and Purdue) to compare against Martinez.
In those first three starts, Armstrong was impressive at times.
Against Illinois, the redshirt freshman was given a game plan that worked. The Omaha World Herald's Sam McKewon noted the success of offensive coordinator Tim Beck during that matchup.
McKewon also gave credit to Armstrong where credit was due. The Texas native is talented, after all. No one has debated or doubted that. In his first career start against South Dakota State, he boasted a jaw-dropping 80 percent completion rate.
By Purdue, however, Armstrong's completion rate fell to 33.3 percent. Interceptions will do that to a quarterback.
His numbers are still big, though. Armstrong made a big enough case against South Dakota State and Illinois to warrant discussion of a potential quarterback controversy.
The Purdue matchup was a bit of a step back for Armstrong, but it was not a testament to his playing abilities. It's important to remember that he is still learning.
A major difference between Martinez and Armstrong is clear, though. Martinez is a rushing quarterback, while Armstrong is a passing quarterback.
Both can still effectively run or pass as well, but each has their sweet spot.
That's what makes Martinez's starts as a redshirt freshman so outstanding. He was able to break free and run when possible. That's a little more difficult for Armstrong.
However, Armstrong is further along in his passing mechanics. The redshirt freshman may still throw from his toes and fail to fully follow through, but Martinez's throwing issues were much more problematic at the same point in his career.
Martinez was still productive, and his completion percentage is a testament to that. It just wasn't as easy for Martinez to pass as it is for Armstrong.
From 2010 to 2013, the Nebraska offense has changed significantly. Armstrong is protected by an offensive line that doesn't require him to scramble often. In fact, Armstrong's poise while in the pocket is one of his greatest talents. It's also a testament to his offensive line.
Who had the more impressive first three starts for Nebraska?
Four seasons ago, Martinez was a redshirt freshman just like Armstrong. Martinez scrambled, as he did in his first three starts of 2013, because he could. He also scrambled because he was forced to and often handled it well.
Comparing their two sets of numbers, it's easy to see strengths and weaknesses from both. Martinez's first three starts are more impressive than Armstrong's, but that doesn't mean Armstrong hasn't made a case for himself, either.
Nebraska fans know the history following Martinez's first three starts. Armstrong's history has yet to be written.
The production numbers from the two quarterbacks serves as a reminder, though. It's a reminder of the talent Nebraska has in the quarterback position.
It's also a reminder that the grass is always greener on the other side.