BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. knows how good his team is. He expects everyone else to figure it out, too.
After hanging on for a 27-22 victory Saturday at Indiana, Armstrong challenged the critics who contend the Cornhuskers have feasted on a soft schedule and their latest victory proves just how perilous their No. 10 ranking could be when things get tougher.
“We get criticized about who we play. At the end of the day, we play great teams,” Armstrong said. “At the end of the day, the Big Ten came out of the preseason as one of the top conferences going into the conference (season). We look at it as we’re going to win each (game), if we don’t get respect, oh well. We’re going to go out there and demand it. But if we keep winning, there’s nothing anyone can say about our team.”
Nebraska (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten ) is off to its best start since 2001 and has won seven straight games overall, including last season’s bowl victory over UCLA.
But if the conference’s West Division leaders intend to stay there — and continue their staggering climb up the rankings — there’s little doubt they must play better than they did Saturday.
While the Hoosiers (3-3, 1-2) are better than previous seasons, Armstrong and the ‘Huskers took control early and had a chance to blow out Indiana after taking a 17-0 first-quarter lead.
Instead, the ‘Huskers offense bogged down, the defense finally broke down in the second half and Terrell Newby’s loose ball with 2:06 left in the game nearly ended Nebraska’s winning streak. The vaunted ground game averaged just 3.4 yards per carry, and Armstrong struggled, going 10 of 26 with two interceptions.
The way Armstrong and the coaches saw it, beating a team that had already upset the defending Big Ten champs and seriously challenged No. 2 Ohio State last week in Columbus should be good enough to convince the doubters that Nebraska is actually that good.
“I’m extremely excited about the will to win that this team has, how hard they play, the resiliency they show and kind of the clutch attitude and poise they keep in the fourth quarter,” coach Mike Riley said. “I know, and I know that you know we have a lot of football to clean up to be really, really good but it’s awfully good to win even with that.”
Especially now that the real tests are about to begin.
After trying to avenge last season’s loss to Purdue next weekend, they’ll face No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. Win all three, and Nebraska won’t have to lobby anyone for respect.
For now, though, Armstrong insists that debate should already be over and he’ll keep making points until it is.
“Other people may laugh at us, talking about are we real or are we really a great team,” Armstrong said. “Each week, we come out, we win. Once we keep winning, what are they going to say then? We’re not playing great teams?”
AP College Football: collegefootball.ap.org