Is it Better to Be Lucky or Good?
It goes without saying that the amount of success that Nebraska has on the field in 2014 will have a great deal to do with the play of their quarterback. But the fickle finger of fate has a way of nudging teams toward victory or defeat that can't really be foreseen. For all of the productivity over his career, it would be hard to call Taylor Martinez lucky. Despite more modest productivity, you could call Tommy Armstrong lucky. Which means more?
Bad Days for Martinez
Seemingly nothing could go wrong for Taylor Martinez in his freshman campaign until Texas came to town. You could say Martinez was benched during the game for poor play, which might be fair. But you could also point to three dropped touchdown passes by Husker receivers and a fumble by Roy Helu which could hardly be blamed on Martinez. You could point to 16 flags for 145 yards against the Huskers at Texas A&M that year versus just 2 for 10 yards against the Aggies. Was that Taylor's fault in a 3-point defeat? You could point to a Sooner timeout that thwarted a fake punt or a pair of fumbles by NU running backs in a 3-point loss to OU that year. Or being rematched with an uninspiring bowl opponent in a redundant destination.
Could Martinez be blamed for costly red zone fumbles by Rex Burkhead or Quincy Enunwa in a 3-point loss to Northwestern the following year? Or fumbles by Kenny Bell and Tim Marlowe at Michigan? Or a blocked PAT return, a Hail Mary yielded to Alshon Jeffery, and a red zone fumble by Ameer Abdullah against South Carolina?
How about a lost Abdullah fumble or a missed field goal against UCLA his junior year? Or a blocked punt, missed field goal, and lost Abdullah fumble against Georgia? Or an injury marred senior campaign? You can call Martinez a lot of things, but lucky probably isn't one of them
Fortune for Armstrong
In a bizarre way you could call the injury to Martinez good luck for Armstrong. It got Armstrong on the field and gave him a major leg up to be the starter next year. You could call it lucky that Armstrong's first 3 starts came against bad teams in South Dakota State, Illinois, and Purdue. You might call it lucky that the loss at Minnesota can't be pinned on him, since an injured Martinez played instead. Armstrong was the starter against Northwestern but certainly benefitted from the Avery Moss interception return and Hail Mary throw by Ron Kellogg after his own interception appeared likely to cost the Huskers the game. He could certainly be grateful his defense kept NU in the game to eke out a victory over Michigan. He is fortunate to be the starter of record against Penn State despite a comeback victory that was engineered by Ron Kellogg. He didn't face Iowa, so the blame for that loss can't be pinned on him there either. Against Georgia, he certainly benefitted from Quincy Enunwa's run after the catch for the decisive touchdown and the dropped passes by Bulldogs to end the game.
Armstrong doesn't measure up to Martinez statistically as a passer or a runner. However, his win-loss percentage as a starter is one Martinez would be envious of. Tommy Armstrong could go through the 2014 season with unimpressive statistical output, but if he keeps winning 7 games of every 8 he starts, the team will be in far better shape. It would be nice if he played as well or better than Martinez. Let's just hope he's luckier.