Starting role in bowl would be big finish for Huskers' Fyfe
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Even though he's wearing a cast on his left wrist and can't take snaps from under center, Ryker Fyfe remains the most practical option No. 24 Nebraska has at quarterback as it prepares for the Music City Bowl against Tennessee.
Four-year starter Tommy Armstrong Jr. hasn't practiced since aggravating his hamstring injury three weeks ago against Iowa, meaning Fyfe must take all the repetitions with the No. 1 offense.
Armstrong needs to practice soon if he's going to play in the Dec. 30 bowl, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said.
''I don't know if there's a specific timetable,'' Langsdorf said. ''It's hard to go into a game without a good week of practice at least. We're not talking about 10-year veterans here. These are college kids who need the practice. We're hoping to get him back as soon as we can.''
Fyfe, a fifth-year senior and former walk-on, said the uncertainty doesn't faze him.
''It's kind of like my whole career has been,'' he said. ''Just got to be ready, I guess.''
Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop's hunch?
''I think Armstrong's going to play,'' he said. ''He's a senior. He's played a lot of football. It's his team.''
Fyfe has played sparingly in the three years he's been the top backup. He was sharp in his only start this season, completing 23 of 37 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown in a 28-7 win over Maryland on Nov. 19. But he landed wrong on his left wrist in the third quarter. Athletic trainers originally thought it was a sprain, and he finished the game. X-rays afterward showed a broken bone, and he underwent surgery the next day.
His injury left the Cornhuskers in a lurch with the final regular-season game against Iowa looming. Armstrong was still gimpy from hurting his left hamstring Nov. 12, and Fyfe couldn't practice until three days after surgery. The No. 3 quarterback, Zack Darlington, moved to receiver in the spring and was prepared to take snaps only in an emergency. The Huskers (9-3) didn't want to take their other QB, Patrick O'Brien, out of a redshirt so late in the season.
Fyfe said both he and Armstrong were about 30 percent on the day of the Iowa game, with Armstrong starting because he practiced more that week. The Huskers lost 40-10.
''I would have been shotgun (only) and it would have been kind of tough,'' Fyfe said. ''I had surgery five days prior. I would have been able to do it but it would have been a lot tougher. I couldn't go under center.''
Fyfe said this week his left wrist is better but he still won't be able to take snaps from under center at least until next week as the team prepares for the Volunteers (8-4).
Other than starting against Maryland last month and in the loss at Purdue last year, Fyfe has mostly taken the last few snaps in blowouts in 17 appearances over three seasons.
Fyfe is a capable runner, but he's more natural as a passer. Langsdorf said Fyfe is most effective throwing downfield off play-action.
''He's come a long way for a guy who has had two career starts,'' Langsdorf said. ''It would have been a lot of fun to have him healthy and be able to play him more. I think he's a good player. You're seeing his daily improvement. He gets better and better. I'm excited for him to finish his career strong.''
Fyfe's football days probably will be over after the bowl, and he said he'll be ready if called on. The Huskers will be trying for a 10-win season and a positive ending they can carry into the offseason.
''It would mean a lot,'' Fyfe said. ''Play hard one last game and finish out the career hopefully on a high note.''
NOTE: After Wednesday's practice the Volunteers went to Gatlinburg to visit elementary school students and sign autographs for them. The Gatlinburg area has been devastated by wildfires that killed 14 people and damaged more than 2,400 buildings.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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