COLUMBUS, OHIO — If it’s up to No. 4, you feel, he’s going. Now. Throw on the saddle and let ‘er rip, same as it ever was.
Thank you all for the prayers… everything is good and I’m glad to be back with my team. Also thank you @OhioStateFB and the fans.
— Tommy Armstrong Jr. (@Tommy_Gun4) November 6, 2016
My mans a fighter, hes good! Tommy jumped off the hospital bed when he got cleared and said “we gotta get back”! I love this guys heart ??❤️
— Jaylyn Odermann (@Jaylyn_Odie) November 6, 2016
Not that simple. Sadly.
There’s no questioning Tommy Armstrong’s heart.
It’s his head that you wonder about.
Nebraska coach Mike Riley came out of Ohio Stadium with a quandary served in between two slices of grief. Fans are smarting after the Cornhuskers’ worst defeat as a Big Ten member, a 62-3 setback at No. 6 Ohio State that raised Big Red flags all over the stinking place.
And injury only added to insult. While converting an 11-yard run on third down late in the second quarter, Armstrong, Riley’s senior quarterback, fell out of bounds on the Ohio State sideline and landed on his head, a blow that knocked No. 4 cold for more than 15 minutes and left raucous Ohio Stadium hushed in horror.
The Texan had to be cut from his shoulder pads and helmet, had his neck and spine secured as he was strapped to a board, and was rushed to a local hospital.
The whole thing cast a pall on an already lousy evening, a fog that lifted only a half-hour or so later when Armstrong was seen jogging back out of the tunnel in sweats and onto the field, hugging and exhorting his teammates, mind and body seemingly sound.
“He knows that we were all worried about him, and he wanted us to know that he was OK,” Nebraska tight end Sam Cotton recalled. “I mean, that man’s a fighter, and I’d go to battle with him every day. He’s proven to be a warrior on the field for the past four, five years.”
True enough. The Huskers (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) are now tied atop the Big Ten West with No. 8 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2) and Minnesota (7-2, 4-2) and need all the warriors they can get down the stretch. Nebraska hosts the Gophers Saturday night in a game that could either fortify the Big Red’s season — or render it untenable.
Do you push No. 4 and risk it?
Or hand the keys to senior backup Ryker Fyfe and commit to a game plan with someone new, at least for one week?
“Anytime you lose a player, you just know the next guy has got to step up,” linebacker Josh Banderas said. “We were more worried, like, ‘Is Tommy OK?’ More than, ‘We lost our starting quarterback.’ Ryker came in and he gave it his best. That’s all we ask for and we’ll stand behind it.”
Fyfe completed just 5 of 18 throws in emergency relief of Armstrong, throwing a pick-six to Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker late in the third quarter that chucked more salt on an already open wound.
“(We’ve) just got to put it behind us and just know that we’re 7-2 and we control our own destiny,” said Fyfe, who threw for four touchdowns last fall at Purdue — along with four interceptions. “And just get back to work and get more focused maybe this week.
“Overall, we didn’t hit our throws and catch it. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was a team fault, not just one person’s fault … We didn’t play our best game.”
Armstrong is Riley’s best option under center, but there’s no grey area when it comes to grey matter. The Huskers coach said he would probably know more Sunday. If it’s a concussion — or something worse — discretion beats valor any dang day of the week.