Armstrong on path to being cleared to play; Fyfe feels ready if called
LINCOLN — Tommy Armstrong is yet to take a snap this week but is now just one feel-good practice day away from being cleared to play Saturday night against Minnesota.
Mike Riley said the senior quarterback has progressed “normally” through concussion protocol this week, giving Nebraska’s head coach optimism Armstrong will be on the field just a week after his head slammed into the turf and knocked him out of the Ohio State game.
“Yes, I anticipate it,” Riley said of Armstrong being cleared to play. “You know me, I’m kind of an optimistic guy. I don’t see any reason why not at this point, but we’ve been surprised before, so I shouldn’t go any further than that.”
In the meantime, senior Ryker Fyfe has been taking snaps with the top offense, preparing as if he’ll make the second start of his career.
Fyfe feels ready if handed the keys.
“You might have to think more sharply out there and focus a little more, but I approach every week the same,” he said.
In Fyfe’s lone start, a 55-45 loss to Purdue a season ago, he threw for 407 yards, completing 29-of-48 passes for four touchdowns. But four interceptions cast a cloud over those stats.
Called into action during the second quarter a week ago, with Nebraska already down 24-3 to the Buckeyes, he completed 5-of-18 passes for 52 yards and an interception in the 59-point Husker loss.
“I probably missed some throws but that comes with timing throughout the week,” Fyfe said. “I think I could have played better, but we were down and they were expecting pass. It just kind of wasn’t a good game for us. You’ve got to rebound from that game.”
Given the circumstances, it probably wasn’t the best game to form bold takes on where Fyfe stands compared to a year ago during his first fall in the system of Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.
“I’ve learned a lot just knowing what Langs wants to call in certain situations,” Fyfe said. “Just being around the system for two years has definitely helped and I feel comfortable back there.”
Langsdorf is, naturally, making plans as if either Armstrong or Fyfe could start.
He has liked what Fyfe has shown him so far in this week’s preparation as NU gets set to go against the 7-2 Gophers in a critical game in the Big Ten West standings.
“He’s a had a really good week. He gets rid of the ball quick, throws accurately … has good footwork and plays at a fast pace, which is good to see,” Langsdorf said. “He’s looked good all year, he just hasn’t had a lot of the game reps.”
While Armstrong hasn’t had any practice reps, “the mental reps is what we’re looking for there,” Langsdorf said.
Part of concussion protocol includes going through a day of on-field activity without any aftereffects. That is why Riley and Langsdorf won’t know for sure if their starting QB is cleared until how they see he reacts to Thursday’s practice.
“As you have probably gathered from similar injuries in the past, it’s always day-to-day until he’s finally cleared,” Riley said. “And he is not finally cleared.”
Caution would be expected given the scene last week.
After suffering the second-quarter injury, Armstrong was down on the field for about 15 minutes. He was carted off the field and taken by an ambulance to a nearby hospital. But by the third quarter, he had returned to join his team on the sidelines, raising the idea of whether he might be back this week.
“I think he wants to be back for sure. I’d bet badly,” Riley said. “Tommy likes to play football. He’s a focal-point guy on the team. I think one of the main attributes that he has is that he loves to play and compete, doesn’t want to miss anything.
“But on a deal like this, he’s not in charge and neither am I. Someone else will tell us. We just follow the biology and the protocol and see what we can get.”