In do-or-die situation, Armstrong and Leidner deliver superb performances
It was the match-up that everyone would be keeping an eye on.
Sure, the game was Minnesota vs. Nebraska but it was really Mitch Leidner vs. Tommy Armstrong Jr. The quarterback that had the better performance was going to give his team a better chance to win on Saturday night and keep the hopes of a B1G West title alive.
You can critique both for a lot of things. Neither quarterback has been consistent throughout his career. Both have made crucial mistakes in big games. A lot of times, how Leidner and Armstrong play is an indicator of how the team will play. Sometimes that’s been frustrating to watch.
Not on Saturday night.
In a do-or-die circumstance, we saw the best from two seasoned quarterbacks. Leidner finished the day 18-of-27 for 180 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass on Saturday night but he did reach the end zone once with his legs.
Armstrong posted similar numbers. The Husker completed 19-of-27 passes for 217 yards and a pair of TDs. He added 61 yards on the ground and scored the go-ahead TD late in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska improved to 8-2, Minnesota dropped to 7-3 in a 24-17 final.
On the Gophers’ final drive, Leidner made is only critical mistake of the night. He was intercepted as Minnesota was moving, hoping to tie the score and keep its B1G West hopes alive. The pass bounced off his receivers’ hands and bounced into the arms of Kieron Williams to seal the win for the Huskers.
It looks self-explanatory on the surface. Armstrong got the job done, Leidner did not. In a critical moment, once again, Leidner couldn’t pull through. But it was much more than that. Anyone who watched the game knew both quarterbacks put it all on the line. One miscue shouldn’t trump tonight’s performance.
Leidner was as accurate as he’s been all season on Saturday night. Against a secondary that has given itself the nickname “Lockdown U” that’s quite an accomplishment. The Minnesota quarterback was squeezing the ball into tight windows and finding open targets. On a fourth down situation at the goal line, he buried his head and pushed the pile until the ball crossed the plain.
For 58:30, Leidner was a really good quarterback.
Armstrong was sensational, as well.
One week ago, he was being carted off on a stretcher after a nasty hit left him motionless on the sideline in Columbus when the Huskers battled Ohio State. We didn’t even know if he was going to play, let alone wonder how he was going to perform. Seven days is plenty of recovery time, apparently.
The Nebraska senior endured some injuries in this contest, too. He appeared to go down with a sprained ankle late in the game, but he fought through it. After his 13-yard scamper to give the Huskers their final lead of the night, he had to be helped to the sideline by his offensive lineman.
Ryker Fife came in for the final two possessions to finish off the Gophers.
Both Leidner and Armstrong have played with a lot of toughness and grit this season. There’s never been any question about their effort. The consistency matched on Saturday night. That’s what made this game so fun to watch.
Saturday’s game had the hopes of a West title hanging in the balance. Both quarterbacks delivered a valiant effort.
As the career dwindle down for Leidner and Armstrong, there are plenty of games you can point out in which they didn’t live up to expectations. A few contests that could’ve been different had they been more accurate or didn’t throw it to the opposition so frequently.
You can’t say that about Saturday.
We got the very best from two guys who have starters for three-plus seasons. They played like something was on the line. Armstrong and the Huskers will reap the rewards but Leidner and the Gophers have nothing to be ashamed about.
Saturday’s contest was a tough, hard-fought game. And we saw the very best from two of the conference’s toughest quarterbacks.