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Recap: Nebraska Falls to Northwestern 30-28

Special teams got dominated, the offense never got on track and the defense looked decent some of the time. Unfortunately, penalties and inopportune breakdowns reared their ugly head and doomed the Huskers. Again.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

I have over 2500 words written about this game (notes taken as the game unfolded). If you want the tl;dr version:


First Quarter

The game started with the Blackshirt defense on display. Nebraska forced a 3 and out right away and got great field position near the 50 after the punt. The Huskers moved to the red zone where they stalled (behind 3 incomplete passes). Drew Brown's field was good from 43 yards.

Huskers lead 3-0.

On NW's first down play, the Blackshirts let Thorson escape for a 69 yard run before he was pushed out of bounds at the 2. The Huskers stoned them on 1st and goal. A high Wildcat snap was handled well by Jackson and he pushed ahead for one. On 3rd and goal, it looked like the Huskers had the play stopped but Thorson juuuuuust snuck it over for the TD.

Extra point was good and the Wildcats led 7-3.

NW kicked off and Jordan Westerkamp picked up his 100th career catch on the drive.  The Huskers could not get into field goal range and Foltz came out to punt and NW called fair catch at the 3.  Oops. On the very next play Thorson held the ball too long in the end zone and the Blackshirts struck pay dirt. Safety!!  (Dzuris)

Northwestern was still leading 7-5.

The Wildcats kicked off to the Huskers. Stevenson had a decent return (ran into another Husker) but a block in the back brought the play back to the 24. At this point we got word that Alonzo Moore was questionable to return with an injury. On 3rd and 7, the pass was incomplete but a pass interference call on the NW DB gave the Huskers a first down at the 35. A nifty catch and run by Reilly moved the ball across midfield to the Wildcat 38. I was screaming at the TV to "run the damn ball!" even with the nice catches by the wideouts. Cethan Carter slammed through a defender to pick up the first but a flag on an illegal block below the waist (Sterup) brought it back. An incomplete pass on 2nd and 17 brought up 3rd down. A screen to Newby was short and the Huskers were just out of field goal range. The Foltz punt went into the end zone.

NW took over on the 20 leading 7-5. The Blackshirts forced a 3 and out. DPE caught the ball and lost a couple of yards on the return. End of the first quarter. The Blackshirts gave up 71 yards of offense to the Wildcats, 68 of it on one play. Thorson totaled 1 yard passing (a shovel pass). If the offensive playcalling (Langsdorf!!!) commits a bit more to running (rather than trying to screen them to death) on a vulnerable Wildcat defense, the Huskers might really get going. Sigh.

Second Quarter

Tommy is throwing everything off his back foot, so of course the Huskers throw on 3rd and 3 to go three and out. The Foltz punt went into the end zone and the Wildcats take over on the 20 but returned the 3 and out favor. The NW punt was tipped by Janovich; however it took a great Wildcat roll and went out at the 37.

Newby gained 8 on an outside run but then a Pierson El jet sweep gained nothing AND THEN WE THREW THE DAMN BALL AGAIN ON 3RD AND 2. I have no words. Yes I do. RUN THE DAMN BALL. RUN THE DAMN BALL. RUN THE DAMN BALL. RUN THE DAMN BALL. PLEASE RUN THE DAMN BALL!!!

The Foltz punt went into the end zone and NW took over on their 20. It looked like the Huskers had the drive stopped but an offside penalty gave the Wildcasts a second chance with 3rd and 2. A safety blitz got home for Nate Gerry and the Blackshirts forced a punt. The Wildcats shanked the punt - trying to kick away from DPE.

After a couple of runs we were at 3rd and 3. Playcall? OF COURSE. Throw it to the running back. We got the first down, but SIGH. We continued to THROW THE DAMN BALL AND GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? Yes, pick six. Northwestern returned one 72 yards for the touchdown.

Wildcats lead extended to 14-5.

I can already sense the torches and pitchforks as the coaching staff has returned to its Illinois form. At this point, the Wildcats had only one first down. ONE. They had 71 yards of total offense and were leading the game by two scores. Armstrong is struggling mightily, but the game plan appears to be predicated around him making it all happen. Bad game plan! Bad! Go to your room!

Northwestern kicked off to the Huskers. A one-yard Janovich run was followed by an incomplete pass and then one of those crazy Armstrong improvisations that resulted in a Reilly first down catch. Huskers got lucky on that one, but please RUN THE BALL. RUN THE BALL. RUN THE BALL.

No. Next play was a pass to Stanley Morgan for 6 followed by a run up the middle by Newby for one. After all of my screaming for run plays, they seem to be going absolutely nowhere. Tommy broke backfield tackles to run for the first down on 3rd and 2. The Huskers crossed midfield. it was second and 8 with 3 and half minutes left in the half. An Armstrong rollout was complete for 19 to Turner. He actually sort of squared up for that throw, steps? Cross was brought down for a loss on first down. Second and 16 resulted in a long incomplete pass to Cethan Carter and a hard hit on Tommy. 3rd and 16 (just outside of field goal range at the 35) brought a Wildcat timeout. Jordan Westerkamp caught the ball from Tommy (who was rolling to his left) for the first down. On first and goal at the 10, a designed QB run went for naught. One second down, Reilly caught the slant and ran in for the TOUCHDOWN!!! I'm not even mad we are still passing the ball anymore. This is apparently how this game is going to be played - time for me to accept it. The run game was not established immediately and the Wildcats were not going to allow it at this point.

Northwestern still leads 14-12. One minute left in the half.

NW returned the kickoff to the 28. NW tried to pass their way down the field and then the Blackshirts lost contain on Thorson AGAIN and he rumbled to the 11. He has run for 106 yards (a new career high). ALSO WHERE ARE THE DAMN FLAGS FOR HOLDING ON THE WILDCATS?!? There were multiple obvious holds not called on that play and the one before it. On the flip side, Nate Gerry cannot miss that tackle (he was not the one being held).

With 8 seconds left in the half, Nebraska called a timeout. A dropped pass in the end zone by the Wildcats brought out the FG unit. Northwestern challenged the ruling and lost. They were out of challenges for the game (I must have missed their first one). Nebraska tried their damndest to block the field goal but it was good from 28 and NW led at the half 17-12.

Half time


The Huskers are averaging 2.9 ypc. The Wildcats are going to make the Huskers pass to win the game. Strap in folks, this is going to be another crazy NU-NU tilt.

Third quarter

The Husker offense got the ball first to start the second half. A first down run (up the middle of course) went nowhere and then a second down pass was dropped by Jamal Turner. (it was not a great pass, but it hit him in the hands). Cethan Carter came up with the first down grab.

The sideline reporter came on and said that Riley told him the Huskers did not have any offensive rhythm in the first half (DUH!) and that they needed to find it in the pass game. I repeat. Strap it up folks we are gonna pass to win this one or lose trying.

Armstrong lost 3 on the zone read. It was not a good read, but I'm not sure Newby would have gotten much more. The o-line needs to step up. On 3rd and 13 Armstrong found - who else? - Westerkamp for the first down. They were across midfield and again lost yardage on a first down run up the middle. PASS THE DAMN BALL. PASS THE DAMN BALL. Nevermind. Reilly dropped a sure touchdown pass (the sun was brutal at that spot) to bring up 3rd and 11 on the 37. Armstrong scrambled his way into field goal range. A sideline penalty on NW gave the Huskers half the distance to the goal and a first down. After two unsuccessful plays (incomplete pass, loss of 1 on a Cross run) we HAVE A LANE HOVEY SIGHTING! First and goal Nebraska. A first down run, repeat with me - up the middle - netted a couple. A miscommunication with Westerkamp on second down brought up 3rd. Tommy kept it on the read and ran in for the TOUCHDOWN NEBRASKA! It was a 15 play drive that was sorely needed.

Huskers take the lead 19-17.

The Wildcats got a nice kickoff return and started their drive at the 35. They passed for a first down immediately and then the Blackshirts stopped them for short yardage. On 3rd and 6, Thorson ran for the first after Marcus Newby was accidentally tripped. They soon followed with a nice, long sideline pass and NW had first and goal at the 7. Jackson's first down run got them to the two yard line. The Wildcat snap went to Jackson on 2nd down and he got past Banderas for what was ruled a touchdown. After review he was down just short of the goal. On 3rd and very short the Blackshirts stopped the Wildcats and force the field goal. Maliek Collins deserves credit for absolutely blowing up the center and when it looked like Thorson might still sneak over, the cavalry arrived and pushed him back.

Northwestern retakes the lead 20-19.

The Huskers started on the 25 and Tommy passed to a wide open DPE for a quick first down. After another first, Cross gained two to reach midfield. Hey guys! We are splitting Imani Cross out wide and throwing to him! Just call us Iowa. The 2nd and 8 rollout pass sailed over Jamal Turners head (he hesitated and cost the Huskers a touchdown). 3rd and 8 went deep again to DPE and he drew the PI flag. Fitzgerald nearly compounded the problem by being way out on the field and nearly getting flagged himself. First and 10 at the 35. Cross gained 6 and Newby got 4 more to move the chains. The Huskers were starting to run a lot of misdirection stuff in the backfield to disguise where the run was going. It appeared to be working. DPE dropped the first down pass (ugghhh). A receiver screen went almost nowhere which brought up 3rd and 9. On the rollout Armstrong failed to throw the ball away, lost 10 yards in the sack and pushed the field goal try back.

End of 3rd quarter. NW leading 20-19.

Fourth quarter


The quarter opened with a Drew Brown 48 yard field goal. GOOOOD!

Huskers regain the lead 22-20.

On the ensuing drive, NW went three and out and the Huskers returned the favor. Foltz's punt was absolute money. A great return was negated by a block in the back. An unsportsmanlike conduct after the play on Nebraska gave them some breathing room and the Wildcats took over at their 24. Thorson came out slinging it. Bad things (for Nebraska) were sure to follow. NW marched down for the 37 yard touchdown to superback (tight end) Dan Vitale. NW gained more yards on that drive than they did the entire rest of the game to that point.

Northwestern regains the lead 27-22. 9:53 left in the game.

On first down Taariq Allen dropped a pass with MANY yards of green in front of him. It was followed by an incomplete pass. 3rd and 10 brought a terrible sack by a rejuvenated NW defense. I have been talking up the Husker o-line recently, but they did not show up there. The Wildcats returned the short punt to the Husker 40. The Blackshirts proceeded to give up huge chunks of yardage on each play and NW marched to the red zone quickly. On 3rd and 6 at the 10 yard line, the Thorson pass was incomplete (thanks to pressure). The NW field goal trotted out for a 27-yarder which was good.

NW extends their lead 30-22. 7:27 left in the game.

The Huskers took over on the 25 after the touchback. Tommy ran for a first. It was followed by a 17 yard sliding catch to Westerkamp. Two unsuccessful plays brought up 4th and 6 at the NW 40. It was hauled in at the five yard line by REIIIIIIILLLLLYYYYY! Tommy took a big hit and limped down to the line of scrimmage. He did not feel sorry for himself very long as he took it in for the rushing TD. The two point conversion to tie the game was no good.

Northwestern retains the lead 30-28. 4:23 left in the game.

The kickoff came out to the 25. Northwestern faced a conundrum. Pass against this Husker defense or try to play ball control and run? The Blackshirts forced 3rd and 3 but the Wildcats converted with a dumpoff to Jackson that went for 20+ to the Husker 40. Three minutes left in the game. The Wildcats went in to clock-milking mode and did enough to keep moving the chains. The Wildcats were nearly in field goal range with less than 2 minutes to play. It was looking worse and worse, especially after Collins was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct. This gave the Wildcats a first down and half the distance to the goal. One minute 26 seconds left in the game. Nebraska only had one timeout which they used. Victory formation and Northwestern outlasted the clock.

Huskers drop to 3-5 by a score of 30-28.

The Huskers have now lost 5 games by a grand total of 13 points. At some point, a good team finds ways to win these and Nebraska is just not that team right now. Bowl eligibility is in serious doubt.

Be nice to each other. Maybe even find a hobby because we all know that Husker football is getting hard to watch and distractions might be helpful. Whatever you do, PLEASE don't tweet mean things at players. If you want to blame anyone, blame Husker Mike. After all, he got smug about his perfect picks in Husker games so far this year (no- don't do that I am just kidding) These young men playing for Nebraska are even more frustrated and disappointed than we are.

Hey at least we aren't Texas, right?


Go Big Red!