Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, in four games, has settled into a nice rhythm.

He says he feels more comfortable in the Mike Riley/Danny Langsdorf system than he did last season. No surprise there.

He's a much bigger factor in the running game. No surprise there, either.

However, it should be noted Armstrong found decent rhythm through four games last season before encountering significant struggles, particularly with turnovers.

I don't envision a repeat. The senior is playing with a sense of urgency, and his decision-making has improved.

What's more, the coaches are better utilizing his talents.

We'll see where it all goes. The season's young.

Just know that decision-making generally is atop Langsdorf's weekly quarterback checklist.

"For the most part, he's done well," the coach said. "He's cut down the turnovers, which has been a key for us. And a lot of that is in passing-game decisions. I think that's the No. 1 thing we're looking for.

"He's the last guy with the ball in his hands. When we're trying to make a good decision about a certain play, he's got to help us be right."

So far, so good. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Armstrong ranks third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency at 153.4 behind only J.T. Barrett of Ohio State (184.4) and Richard Lagow of Indiana (158.7).

Through four games last season, Armstrong's efficiency number was 146.8. He had 11 touchdown passes and five interceptions.

This season, he has eight TD passes and only one interception, with a few close calls.

You can't help but wonder how much of his enhanced confidence stems from not only his experience in the system, but also his success in the running game.

He has rushed 52 times for 281 yards, or 5.4 per carry.

Through four games last season, he had 29 carries for 118 yards (4.3).

I've said it before: Armstrong, a physical runner with good speed, can handle 10 to 15 carries a game, and such a workload doesn't have to compromise the integrity of the offense.

Has Langsdorf found a sweet spot in the quarterback run game in terms of number of carries?

"It kind of depends on defenses and how they're defending it," he said. "He's made some runs on his own, frankly. He's turned a 5-yard gain into 15 because he's broken a tackle. … He's made some nice plays like that.

"We feel we have a good mixture of ways we can attack defenses with our running game, including the quarterback runs."

Langsdorf said he expected improvement from Armstrong this season.

"Good, solid play," is the way the coach described his QB's performance to this point.

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Yes, you see good rhythm, and legitimate reasons to believe it will continue.


Two thumbs up to Les Miles for his supremely classy response to being fired by LSU. Did he fight the firing? "It was beyond fighting," he said on "The Dan Patrick Show." "The enjoyment of being here (at LSU), the enjoyment of the community, the experiences my family's had, it was too important for me to fight over. It's history, it's what we are. If they see a change that makes the Tigers better, then I'm for it."

Thumbs down to anyone pushing Art Briles for the LSU vacancy. There's simply too much we don't know regarding his involvement in the Baylor sexual assault scandal.


Wisconsin is allowing just 11.7 points per game, down from a nation-best 13.7 last season. The Badgers forced four turnovers last week at Michigan State, while holding the Spartans to 20-for-43 passing and only 2.8 yards per rush.


Granted, Indiana beating 17th-ranked Michigan State on Saturday wouldn't qualify as a colossal upset. The Spartans are 7½-point favorites even though they were humiliated by the Badgers. MSU-Indiana likely will go down to the wire. If the Hoosiers can avoid the turnover bug that bit them so hard (five interceptions) in last week's 33-28 home loss to Wake Forest, they'll pick up a momentum-building triumph. And, yes, Husker fans should watch this one closely.


I respect the conviction of the three Husker players who kneeled Saturday night during the national anthem. I also have enormous respect for the national anthem and all it represents. With that in mind, here are five of the greatest American spirit-related songs:

1. Jim Hendrix plays "The Star-Spangled Banner" live at Woodstock in 1969. Watch a video of this performance and prepare to be mesmerized. Those still remaining at Woodstock as the festival wound down were blown away by the sudden burst of impromptu brilliance.

2. "The Fightin' Side Of Me," Merle Haggard. You want power in lyrics? Here's power: "When they're runnin' down my country, hoss, they're walkin' on the fightin' side of me."

3. "Ragged Old Flag," Johnny Cash. Watch a video of Cash singing this beauty and prepare to get the chills.

4. "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," Johnny Cash. Simultaneously dark and uplifting. Vintage Cash.

5. "You're a Grand Old Flag," written by George M. Cohan. Innocent and uplifting. We can always use more of those qualities in this world.


Weekly hot-seat list

1. Steve Addazio, Boston College head coach (fourth year). It's uh-oh time, big time. The Eagles were 0-8 in the ACC last season and are 0-2 this season, including last week's 49-0 loss at Virginia Tech.

2. Mark Stoops, Kentucky head coach (fourth year). The Wildcats' defense is the worst in the SEC this season. But is the school willing to pay his $12 million buyout in 2016 or will it wait another year?

3. Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State head coach (fifth year). DeRuyter is a defensive-minded coach, so it's perplexing that the Bulldogs' defense continues to be his downfall. His team fell 48-41 to Tulsa last week in Fresno, and now takes a 1-3 record to UNLV.

4. Mark Helfrich, Oregon head coach (fourth year). Some would argue it's too soon to put him on this list. But the program clearly is trending downward. If the Ducks finish in the .500 range, which is very possible, his seat will become scorching hot.

5. Clay Helton, USC head coach (first year). Again, some would say it's too soon for this. Again, it's not. Helton is now 1-5 since being named the Trojans' full-time head coach. Lose this week to Arizona State in L.A., and the anti-Helton noise will become deafening.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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