Gator Bowl 2014: Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong Does His Best to Lock Up Starting QB

Erin SorensenContributor IJanuary 1, 2014

Jan 1, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. (4) throws a pass before the start of their game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field . Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong made a big statement against Georgia. That statement was that he's ready to be the Huskers' starting quarterback in 2014.

It was a long road to this point. The 2013 season wasn't perfect for Armstrong.

After senior quarterback Taylor Martinez was sidelined with injuries, the responsibility to lead Nebraska fell to the redshirt freshman. He was celebrated at times and chastised at others. By the end of the season, there was talk that he shouldn't see the field again until spring football.

I'll even admit that I was one of those people.

Needless to say, Armstrong proved a lot of people wrong against Georgia.

After rolling his ankle in the first half against Penn State, Armstrong saw little action in the second half of that game. He also sat out in the Nebraska's loss to Iowa. It wasn't clear what would happen to Armstrong. What was clear was that fans were wavering on their faith in the young quarterback.

Message boards were filled with discussions on whether or not redshirt quarterback Johnny Stanton would jump over Armstrong for the starting position in 2014.

Things got a little bit messier after the Gator Bowl.

Armstrong isn't guaranteed the starting position for next season. Stanton will have as much of a chance at taking it.

However, Armstrong made a strong case for himself.

His ability to scramble for Nebraska was highlighted in the first quarter. Needing a first down, Armstrong ran 24 yards to snag it. From there, he showed off his ability to throw. Completing six of his 14 passes for 163 yards, he averaged 11.6 yards per pass and threw for two touchdowns.

It wasn't perfect, of course. Armstrong still threw one interception that could have been make-or-break for the Huskers late in the game.

He also made questionable choices at times.

For instance, around the 9:31 mark in the fourth quarter, Georgia showed a blitz and Armstrong saw it. He checked to a new play, only to run an option straight into the blitz.

It was a rookie mistake. It was something that he can learn from. The experience that Armstrong now has is invaluable.

He's weathered quite a few storms in 2013, which will only help him become a better quarterback going forward. After all, his maturity and confidence were much higher in the Gator Bowl than they had been late in the regular season.

When the going would get tough, Armstrong often shut down. Fans blamed head coach Bo Pelini for letting backup quarterback Ron Kellogg III play in his place. Many felt it would do more for Armstrong's confidence if he played through the adversity.

In the Gator Bowl, he was given that chance.

After throwing his one interception, Armstrong came back out on the field and moved the ball. It didn't result in much, but it burned time off the clock.

The takeaway was that, for the first time in quite awhile, he looked comfortable in his position as quarterback.

It's going to be a long seven months until Nebraska football returns. The annual spring game will shed light on the future for Armstrong, but it likely won't be until August that Pelini makes a call.

Regardless, Nebraska fans have to feel good about the quarterback position in 2014. Whether it's Armstrong or Stanton, the competition is tough in a great way.

It's even better after Armstrong's Gator Bowl performance.