Nebraska needed to beat Michigan State to make it to the Big Ten Championship.
Fans knew that, though. So did the team.
Regardless, the Huskers weren’t able to secure a win, costing a trip to the title game.
A lot of fingers will be pointed in the coming days. In Nebraska’s case, one area struggled significantly more than any other.
That was the quarterback position.
Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong led a mistake-prone offense against Michigan State. As the game wore on, it was clear Armstrong’s immaturity played a key role in the mistakes.
It started early when freshman Terrell Newby dropped an option pitch from Armstrong. That mistake led to a 45-yard field goal for Michigan State.
During Nebraska’s next possession, Armstrong threw an interception on third down. The defense managed to prevent the Spartans from scoring.
The mistakes were not over for Armstrong, though.
Right before the half, Armstrong fumbled on a quarterback draw on third down. Michigan State capitalized, making the score 20-7.
How did you feel about Tommy Armstrong's performance against Michigan State?
The mistakes didn’t stay in the first half.
Come the third quarter, Nebraska found itself down by six points. At one point, Michigan State pinned the Huskers at the 1-yard line.
On the first play of the drive, Armstrong collided with Spartan guard Cole Pensick. The collision resulted in another fumble.
From start to finish, the redshirt freshman struggled. It was less of a talent issue and more of a maturity issue.
Armstrong is the first quarterback to start since senior Taylor Martinez took the reins in 2010. With it, there has been a bit of a learning curve.
The question does surface on whether or not Armstrong is learning. It’s a hard question to answer, too.
Armstrong has been turnover-prone in his time as Nebraska’s starting quarterback.
Against Purdue, for example, Armstrong had three interceptions alone. Many assumed it was due to the game being the redshirt freshman’s first on the road.
At home against Northwestern, Armstrong also recorded three second-half interceptions.
After that matchup, the redshirt freshman said he was learning.
“I try to fix that as much as I can. My coach always told me it's going to happen, but it's just how you respond," Armstrong said, as reported by Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World Herald.
Backup quarterback Ron Kellogg III agreed in the same article from Kaipust:
Tommy's a freshman and he's going to learn from his mistakes. As a quarterback, you don't want to have your head down and show the other team that you're defeated. So it's important for him to keep going forward.
Armstrong has moved forward. He still hasn’t exactly responded as well as many had hoped.
That’s not to say Armstrong can’t learn, though. The first step is maturing as a quarterback.
Armstrong has often been touted as a vocal leader for the Huskers. If so, he needs to translate that leadership to the field.
Turnovers will harm any team’s chances of winning. For Nebraska, it made beating Michigan State nearly impossible.
The Huskers could have won, too.
There will be plenty said about Armstrong’s play. Many will say the game would not have turned out as it did with Martinez as the starter.
However, that hasn’t been in the cards for the Huskers this season. That means Armstrong must mature quickly.
The immaturity already cost the Huskers a shot at a trip to Indianapolis. Unless corrected, it could cost a whole lot more going forward.