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Watch-list quarterback leads Nebraska into Memorial Stadium


The IU special teams unit prepares to block an Ohio State extra point Saturday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Hoosiers will face a similarly strong offense in Nebraska during the Homecoming game. Matt Rasnic and Matt Rasnic Buy Photos

It’s no secret Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was the key to defeating the Hoosiers last week.

He accounted for 59 percent of the Buckeyes’ yards, and IU Coach Kevin Wilson called him the best quarterback in the nation after the game.

Now IU faces a similar threat in Nebraska senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., a dual-threat quarterback with a strong arm and experience.

“Anytime a quarterback can run it and throw it effectively, it creates challenges for any defense,” IU defensive coordinator Tom Allen said. “He makes it go just like Barrett makes Ohio State go.”

The similarities between the quarterbacks is as visible as the number of wins each of their teams have.

Armstrong averages 58.6 yards on the ground going into the matchup with the Hoosiers on Saturday, while Barrett averaged 51 going into last week. Armstrong averages 230 yards through the air, and Barrett averages 196.

Both quarterbacks have defeated top-25 teams — Armstrong and Nebraska beat then-No. 22 Oregon, and Barrett and Ohio State defeated then-No. 14 

Both lead top-10 teams. Nebraska is ranked 10th.

So what’s the difference between the two quarterbacks?

It’s how each quarterback runs within his offense’s system, Allen said.

“I’d say that Armstrong’s a little faster, a little more explosive type of guy,” Allen said. “Any time you run the quarterback — and the way Ohio State runs their quarterback — they’re designed, it’s not like he’s scrambling around.”

Ohio State ran the ball up and down the field against IU, and Barrett was responsible for 26 of its runs, the most of any Buckeye during the game. When he got the call, Barrett knew he would have the ball.

It’s different for Armstrong. Nebraska’s system is more open-ended.

Armstrong can drop back and then decide what to do with the ball, Allen said. He has more options, and his coaches open the door for his own creation.

“He definitely has quarterback runs, but not to the volume, by scheme, what Ohio State has shown in the past,” Allen said.

On average, Armstrong averages 288.8 yards per game for the Cornhuskers. That’s 61 percent of their total yards per game.

He’s on the Davey O’Brien Award watch list and the Maxwell Award watch list for the best player in the nation.

He owns the career records at Nebraska for passing touchdowns and passing yards. He’s second in career yardage from scrimmage with nearly 8,832 yards, and he has recorded the most 300-total yard games in Nebraska history with 11.

After IU faced the best offense in the conference in Columbus, Ohio, Armstrong leads the second-best offense in the Big Ten into Bloomington on Saturday.

“He’s that extra guy that you have to account for at the point of attack,” Allen said. “You can’t play with twelve, so to get that extra guy there.”

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