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updated: 9/30/2013 3:46 PM

Armstrong likely starter against Illini if Martinez is out

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Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska began the week of its Big Ten opener not knowing who its quarterback will be against Illinois.

Taylor Martinez hasn't practiced for two weeks because of an injury to his left big toe. If he doesn't practice Tuesday or Wednesday, Tommy Armstrong Jr. probably would be the starter for the second straight game, coach Bo Pelini said Monday.

Martinez threw and did some conditioning work at Sunday's practice. The Cornhuskers (3-1) were off Monday.

"I think he's getting closer to being 100 percent," Pelini said. "I think he's feeling better. We'll see as the week progresses."

Martinez, who started 32 straight games before missing the Sept. 21 game against South Dakota State, ran tentatively against UCLA the week before. Martinez was diagnosed with turf toe, an injury marked by painful bruising at the base of the big toe. If the injury doesn't heal completely, it can become chronic.

Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III each played five series against South Dakota State. Armstrong, a redshirt freshman, completed 12 of 15 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in his first start. Kellogg, a fifth-year senior, was 8 for 9 for 136 yards and a TD.

Pelini said he didn't know if Armstrong and Kellogg would split playing time again if Martinez can't play. The coach said he would see how the quarterbacks practice before deciding.

Martinez, a team captain, didn't show for Monday's media availability. Offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said Martinez is antsy to play.

"It's killing him," Sirles said. "At this level, everyone is a huge competitor. I couldn't imagine starting 32 games like he has and being sat because of things out of your control. Every time I see him at practice, he's looking through the script and seeing the plays. I think he's out there taking the mental reps he needs. I can tell the fire is in him to get back and get that job back."

The Huskers will be facing an Illinois team that has struggled to defend the pass. Illinois opponents have completed 63.2 percent of their attempts for an average of 272 yards a game. The Illini (3-1) have intercepted one pass in four games.

Offensive lineman Spencer Long said he has no reservations about any of the three quarterbacks starting against a Big Ten opponent. Long said it was good Armstrong and Kellogg were able to see action against an FCS opponent before the more meaningful games in October and November.

"We practice with them every day, so we know what they're capable of and we expect them to go out there and perform," Long said. "Really, it was just if they can do it in front of 92,000. They showed that they could."

Pelini said the South Dakota State game left him with no qualms about the quarterback situation if Martinez can't play.

"I feel even better than I did before, and that was pretty good," Pelini said. "I have a lot of confidence in those guys. I know we'll play around them, too."

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