|All Points West: No sour outlook for Broncos, Huskers|
|September 30, 2016 Frank Marquez|
A good quarterback is hard to come by. Naturally, any team wants a sure thing, but you take what you get, and as some would say, if you get lemons, make lemonade.
In the Denver Broncos world, they took Trevor Siemian, a little known quarterback who played his college ball from 2011-2014 for the Northwestern Wildcats, a team the Nebraska Cornhuskers upended last weekend, in what appeared to be a move that brought them a lemon. Siemian had four respectable seasons at Northwestern before a season-ending knee injury cut short his 2014 performance. Most notably, he led the Cats to a 43-40 OT win over Notre Dame in 2014 passing for a season high 284 yards. Denver bet on Siemian, drafting him as the 250th overall pick. He was the seventh and final quarterback to be selected in 2015, and, so far, itís paying dividends, while the Broncos have put the rest of the league on notice.
Coach Gary Kubiak, a former quarterback himself who played backup for Denver Broncos icon John Elway, let three QBs battle it out in preseason. Smart move for two guys who know QBs pretty well. Siemian emerged the more stable after going up against NFL veteran Mark Sanchez and rookie Paxton Lynch.
Now, the Broncos are 3-0 after defeating the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, and the Cincinnati Bengals. Thatís tough sledding for a newbie, and compared with his predecessor, Peyton Manning, he was just as humble in the limelight. He said, after the game ball was presented to him by Kubiak, ďIím damn proud to be a part of this group of dudes. Seriously.Ē
In Paul Brown Stadium or as Bengals faithful refer to it, the Jungle, Siemian threw 23-of-35 for 312 yards and four TDs, and no interceptions, which more than made up for the lack of a rush attack. This, so far, has silenced the critics and doubters of Siemianís arm in contrast to Kubiakís run-first approach in Denverís first two games. (C.J. Anderson sputtered against the Bengals.) Who should have that kind of day? Not Brock Osweiler, whose Houston Texans ended up getting pounded by New England in Week 3 without QB Tom Brady on the Patriotsí sideline. Siemian is getting paid $583,195, far less than Osweilerís $12 million for the year. In any league, thereís a lot to be said about mental toughness. As one of those intangibles, you canít put a price tag on it.
Right now, what I donít get is how anyone is talking about getting to the promised land. A Super Bowl run? Weíre not there yet folks; Itís one game at a time. The Bengals played Denver tight in the early going, with a few questionable tosses by Siemian, but those were timing issues he still needs to work on with his receivers. This, after all, is only the third game of the season.
Meanwhile in Lincoln, Siemianís alma mater Northwestern fell to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers had a strong showing against Northwestern on the road at Ryan Field in Chicago in their conference opener. The Big Tenís sell was how these two teams have played in close games the past five years with some of those contests being decided in the final moments. Sorry, Northwestern, no nail biter here. Nebraska took home a decisive 24-13 victory, or what should have been a 38-13 win. With two fumbles in the end zone, Nebraska lost two sure TDs. Either way, the Huskers dominated.
Props to QB Tommy Armstrong. Give him a lot of credit for putting in the work during the off-season, just as a he said he would at the end of last season after a Foster Farms Bowl win over the UCLA Bruins. Iím sure he was more than ready to erase from his mind the 16 interceptions that marred an otherwise impressive record.
If no one is talking about now, Iíd be looking at Armstrong, who once again earned Big Ten offensive player of the week honors on Monday as Nebraska rose to No. 15 in the AP and Coaches polls, to throw his hat into the running for The Heisman. Actions speak louder. Realistically, the Huskers have a good chance at taking the West Division in a likely Battle Royale with Wisconsin on October 29. Nothing would be spookier for Badgersí fans. Say it with me, one game, one win. A National Championship in Mike Rileyís second season with the Huskers? That would be gravy.
Armstrong finished the game 18-for-29 for 246 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also added a career-high 132 yards rushing on 13 attempts.
The game was the second-career 100-yard rushing game for Armstrong, and followed a 95-yard rushing performance against the Oregon Ducks, who lost again this past weekend Ė a narrow 41-38 defeat to the Colorado Buffaloes, who were once an old-time nemesis to Nebraska in the Big 12 and Big Eight. Armstrongís 378 yards of total offense increased his career total offense of 9,210. He became the second Husker with 9,000 career yards of total offense. He trails only Taylor Martinezís school-record 10,233 career yards of total offense.
Both players, Trevor Siemian and Tommy Armstrong, have one thing in common, a phenomenal defense, proficient in getting the ball back. Remember, itís doing something with the ball once you have it, and obviously both QBs have shown they can.
Hereís the kicker, both these players have coaches who believe in their ability. Kubiak backing Siemian, and Riley sticking by Armstrong.
If you have nothing else to go on, have faith.
Next up for the Broncos, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tampa Bay.
The Huskers face Illinois at Memorial Stadium with a 1:30 p.m. local time kickoff.