Husker offense hums, backup QB battle near stalemate

2013-04-06T22:55:00Z 2013-04-11T17:41:04Z Husker offense hums, backup QB battle near stalemateBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

They were every bit the bully Saturday that many around here expect them to be in the fall.

It really didn’t matter who was quarterbacking Nebraska’s offense in the first half of Saturday's Red-White Spring Game — Taylor Martinez, Ron Kellogg III, Tommy Armstrong.

The Husker offense purred regardless of who played the general, chewing up real estate with relative ease.

Consider:

* The Husker offense racked up 421 yards of offense in the first half.

* Martinez, Armstrong and Kellogg threw for a combined 355 yards and had just five passes hit the ground on 29 attempts.

* The first nonscoring drive did not occur until the final minute of the first half.

Ho-hum. Shoulder shrug.

“We just treated it like another practice,” Martinez said. “We normally practice like that.”

The scrimmage, in many ways, went down as one might have expected: A confident, veteran offense mostly having its way with a young defense still in the elementary stages of its education.

Most impressive by the offense was its relatively clean stat sheet. There were no turnovers and not the usual false-start penalties that tend to bog down practices at this time of year.

There should also be no time spent patting themselves on the back, said offensive coordinator Tim Beck.

“We just got to stay focused and keep true to the process,” Beck said. “When we get in trouble is when we play outside of the offense. I got to constantly remind our players to play within the system. It works. Stop trying to do it on your own. That’s when we run into problems.”

This scrimmage came with a final score -- the Reds besting the Whites 32-25 before 60,174 fans.

It came with some humor -- offensive linemen catching punts, for example.

It also came with a reach-for-the-tissue moment, when 7-year-old cancer patient Jack Hoffman entered the game, then took it to the house for a 69-yard touchdown.

“I thought it was a pretty special thing,” Pelini said.

It was. The crowd roared. And cried.

As for the football, both the senior Kellogg and the redshirt freshman Armstrong made their cases as to why they should be Martinez’s backup.

Asked who walks out of spring with the lead for that backup spot, Pelini said Armstrong “was a little bit ahead of Ron.”

Pelini said Armstrong’s game picked up as the spring went along after coming back from a minor knee surgery in the fall.

"He's a tremendous leader. He was a little bit rusty when the spring started, especially with his footwork coming off of the surgery,” Pelini said. “His understanding of the offense is very good. He's obviously a very talented young man. He has to continue to work on his technique, especially his footwork. Success as a quarterback comes from footwork.”

Though fumbling on his first snap of the game, Armstrong looked smooth running the option. He also fired a 37-yard laser to Alonzo Moore, another freshman Saturday standout, for a touchdown.

Beck liked the kid’s confidence.

“He made some mistakes out there, but he made them fast and full-speed,” Beck said. ”We strive for perfection, but we don’t always get that. I just want him playing fast and full-speed, and he did.”

But Kellogg was ready to play ball, too. He completed 11 of 12 passes for 148 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Zimmerer and a 17-yard scoring strike to David Sutton that showed great touch.

Beck knows that backup battle will play itself out in fall camp and beyond.

“His ability to run probably separates him some from Ronnie,” Beck said of Armstrong. “But Ronnie’s ability to lead, just being in the offense so long, it makes it pretty close. It makes it a very close race. It will be an interesting race in the fall. But I have no problem playing either one of them in any given situation.

“Depends on the situation of the game. Who we’re playing? Home or away? Are we up? Are we down? What’s the game plan? All that comes into play.”

Armstrong is not yet available for interviews because of Pelini’s longstanding rule that players must play in a game before addressing media.

Kellogg, meanwhile, said he’s not paying attention to depth chart talk right now.

“I’ll do what I have to do to get our team a victory,” he said. “If it’s me, it’s me. If it’s not me, kudos to Tommy.”

While competing with Armstrong, Kellogg also looks for any opportunities to help teach the young quarterback.

Said Kellogg: “That’s something I feel like it’s my role and duty to do as a senior quarterback.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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