Head coach Bo Pelini receives the game ball from captain Spencer Long.
By Randy York
After a week of extreme national attention and the first of 33 straight games that Taylor Martinez has not started, two backup quarterbacks shared Nebraska’s Offensive Player of the Game honor, and the game ball went to Bo Pelini, the Huskers’ sixth-year head coach. Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr., and fifth-year senior Ron Kellogg III were named Nebraska’s Co-MVPs after leading the Huskers to a 59-20 win over South Dakota State. It was Nebraska’s biggest total offense day under Pelini.
Pelini and his staff elected not to name a Defensive Player of the Game or a Special Teams Player of the Game. Nebraska’s four captains, however, elected to do something different themselves with the full support of their teammates. Well aware of what kind of week their head coach had experienced, they gave Pelini the game ball. All-Big Ten and Second Team All-America offensive guard Spencer Long made the short but heart-felt presentation after an emotional week for Nebraska coaches, Husker players and Big Red fans. The presentation was made in the privacy of Nebraska’s locker room. In a game of firsts, Armstrong, from Cibolo, Texas, earned his first start, first completion and first touchdown pass and split time with Kellogg III, an Omaha Westside High School graduate. Together, they helped Nebraska become the first Husker team ever to rush and pass for more than 300 yards each in the same game.
Ryker Fyfe, a redshirt freshman quarterback from Grand Island, Neb., was named Nebraska’s Scout Team Offensive Player of the Game. Because of Nebraska’s substantial lead, he was able to play Saturday and had one run for three yards and completed a five-yard pass. That enabled him to become a part of that record day while helping increase Nebraska’s overall rushing total to 342 yards (a 6.6-yard per carry average). Fyfe also helped boost the Huskers’ final passing total to 310 yards on a combined 21 completions in 26 attempts. None of Nebraska’s three quarterbacks threw an interception. Ross Dzuris, a redshirt freshman defensive end from Plattsmouth, Neb., received the Scout Team’s Defensive Player of the Game honor, and Chris Weber, a freshman linebacker from Elkhorn, Neb., was named the Scout Team’s Special Teams Player of the Game.
Pelini opened his post game press conference with a statement about Armstrong and Kellogg. “I was really happy with those two quarterbacks,” he said. “I thought they did really well. That was our best rhythm offensively. I thought we came out and got done what we needed to get done.” The quarterbacks’ performances are the result of NU’s ability to develop backups through two practice stations. Armstrong and Kellogg “are getting a lot of reps,” Pelini said. “It’s not a lot of guesswork like a lot of teams where the backup isn’t getting much repetition. We see them do that on a daily basis.”
Quarterbacks “have to make plays, and I thought they did that,” Pelini said. “They managed the game well. They both played with a lot of confidence and walked into that huddle with a lot of swagger. I think that’s important for that position.” Martinez, Nebraska’s all-time leader in total offense, is expected to return to the lineup when Nebraska hosts Illinois on Oct. 5 in an 11 a.m. game that will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. In his absence and with Co-MVP backups, the Huskers are tied with LSU for 16th in NCAA scoring offense with a 43.3-point per game average and rank 22nd with a 496.3-yard per game average in total offense.
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