It appears Nebraska might have a little situation on its hands.
One that doesn't involve four-letter words, but does include two compelling letters: Q and B.
UCLA essentially dared NU quarterback Taylor Martinez to run the ball last week. He usually didn't bite.
We now know why, or at least have a good idea: Taylor's big toe apparently was throbbing. His shoulder may still be sore.
If South Dakota State dares Tommy Armstrong to keep the ball on option plays, I'm betting he'll bite. And he might bite off sizable chunks of yardage.
Yeah, this could get interesting.
We need a little quarterback drama to liven things up around here.
With Martinez ailing, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Armstrong, a redshirt freshman from Cibolo, Texas, likely will start Saturday against South Dakota State (3-0). That is the way Nebraska was leaning Thursday. I hope Bo Pelini and Tim Beck are still leaning that way Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Armstrong is a dynamic runner with a strong arm. He throws well on the run. He has charisma.
"He's got a moxie about him, a mojo," longtime Husker assistant Ron Brown has said.
Yeah, I know, everyone adores a backup quarterback — until he throws a couple of interceptions.
When healthy, Martinez is still the man. He's earned it. But turf toe can be a temperamental, nagging injury. Stay tuned.
Why would I like to see Armstrong start against South Dakota State (assuming Martinez doesn't make a sudden recovery)? Because I think Nebraska (2-1) could use an infusion of energy. That's not exactly going out on a limb. You saw what I saw in the second half of the UCLA debacle. We saw a Husker team that looked lost. Lacked ferociousness. Lacked bite.
I like the idea of Armstrong at the controls, because I'm guessing Nebraska's offense would become even more run-oriented — which, of course, might allow more rest for the struggling Husker defense.
There's also this: If a defense stacks the box with defenders, Nebraska loses its advantage in the numbers game if the QB is unable to run well.
Martinez, a gifted and battle-tested senior, looked hesitant running the ball against the Bruins. His toe injury came to light after the game, when he took questions from media wearing a walking boot on his left foot. His numbers are good this season, but Taylor hasn't been Taylor. He has appeared unwilling to cut loose. He hasn't always made great decisions. He has missed seeing wide-open receivers.
Will Nebraska coaches turn Armstrong loose? Or will Beck, the offensive coordinator, put kid gloves on Tommy and be conservative? I hope he turns Armstrong loose. Opens up the playbook (within reason). Lets him throw deep. He's a big-time athlete. Let him show it.
And what if Armstrong shines? Or even just piques our curiosity? Such a scenario is possible, perhaps even likely, if you put much stock in the fact South Dakota State ranks 65th in the FCS in total defense.
If Armstrong plays well, Pelini (and Beck) potentially could face a challenge in managing what could be construed as a QB dilemma. Dynamic-but-raw redshirt freshman vs. seasoned-but-sore senior?
As if Pelini didn't already have enough on his plate, few things stir up fans quite like a quarterback situation.
This is where I slow my roll. Pelini on Thursday left open the possibility of fifth-year senior Ron Kellogg III starting against South Dakota State. The 6-1, 220-pound Kellogg could be viewed as a safe choice. He is a pass-first QB with a Grade-A understanding of the system. Kellogg is regarded as a solid "game manager."
Both Armstrong and Kellogg practiced well this week, Pelini said. The coach described their competition as "very close." In other words, Armstrong apparently isn't ready to make everyone forget about Tommie Frazier, let alone Martinez.
Armstrong may not even be Nebraska's future at the position. Johnny Stanton, for one, will have something to say about that.
Meanwhile, Martinez's rocky ride at Nebraska continues. He no doubt has a much different perspective on life than when he arrived on campus. Here's hoping he's come to understand that it is the unfortunate nature of many fans and media (guilty) to quickly discard a struggling quarterback in favor of the new guy.
Pelini left the door open a crack for Martinez to play Saturday, if he recovers suddenly. That seems unlikely. Nebraska is off next week.
So, Armstrong is the likely starter. Kellogg also will see action, Pelini said.
Let the drama begin.
Drama that doesn't involve secret audiotape.
Drama that doesn't involve a young defense trying to achieve some level of stability.
Drama that doesn't involve questions about the coaching staff's future.
Folks wonder how the home crowd will receive Pelini as he runs out of the tunnel. Will the boo-birds be out?
That might be the last thing on Bo's mind.