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Corn Nation’s Got Questions: Northwestern Part “A”

A is for answer. Each week we ask some questions about the upcoming game. A few days later we check back to see if we got answers. Today, we look back at the Northwestern Wildcats.

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Well, that warm, fuzzy feeling over winning the chair did not last long. Nebraska got outplayed in most every facet of this game and came away on the wrong side of the scoreboard. The Wildcats were playing for bowl eligibility after a couple of ugly losses, while Nebraska....apparently did not know what they wanted.

Will this be the week the pass defense crawls out of the basement?

Yes it is. The pass defense moved past both Memphis and Indiana to claim the 125th spot in FBS in yards allowed. So, not only do they move out of the FBS basement, they moved up a notch in the B1G too. While they kept Thorson in check with 177 yards through the air, they yielded a career day on the ground for the big Wildcat signal caller (126 yards rushing).

Will the rush offense reach the magic 200 yard mark again?

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Why in the world would we want to do that two weeks in a row? It might get predictable? (/end sarcasm font).

Nebraska ran for a net of 82 yards on the day for 2.2 yards per carry. In the first drive, Nebraska had good field position and executed 4 runs and 4 passes before Brown's field goal. Those 4 rushes gained a total of 10 yards. Two of the passes were complete for a total of 17 yards.

On Nebraska's second drive, they went with 3 rushes and 3 passes. They gained 13 yards on the rushes and completed 2 for 3 passes for 20 yards. Nebraska punted.

Then, on the 3rd drive we saw 9 plays and the balance moved out of whack. There were two rushes up the middle (for 5 yards) and seven passes. Four of those were completed although one was called back on a Sterup penalty. The big play was a 24 yard Reilly catch, but Nebraska still punted.

Starting in the second quarter (fourth drive) is when we began to see the play selection so many of us were screaming about as the Huskers were passing on 3rd and short. Husker Mike gave you the ugly stats in his report card and it was baffling to watch in real time. Northwestern was doing a good job manipulating Nebraska's run game based on its defensive formations but it felt like our playcalling moved away from it too quickly (but I readily admit I am not an X's and O's guru).

Nebraska called 48 pass attempts and 38 rush attempts; yes we ran 86 offensive plays in this game to Northwestern's 56. If you felt transported back to the Big 12 for a bit, you would not be alone. After those first two balanced drives -- we went with 41 passes and 31 rushes. That is a 57%/43% split in favor of passing plays in a situation where we were never really trailing badly enough to require it and with a QB who seemed determined to break all the laws of physics in his throwing mechanics.

A well-oiled passing game can be a thing of beauty (I am a Denver Bronco fan who survived Tebow Time to revel in the Manning era). Given the history of the coaching staff, talented wideouts and lack of an NFL-caliber running back on the roster, I thought I was prepared for this brave new Husker world. I was not.

The Nebraska - Northwestern series has a history of close, crazy finishes. Will the Huskers' season return to a roller coaster ride this game?

Sigh. Yes.

The Huskers took the lead at the start of the 4th but could not hold on. Read the game recap if you want more of my real-time ranting as the game unfolded.

Bonus question - Are you ready for a DPE jet sweep?!?

Yep, and so was Northwestern. His single attempt went for -1 yards.

Predictions

Thorson's career best is 256 yards passing - How far over that will he go on Saturday?

Under. He passed for 177; however, his career rushing day more than offset any enjoyment of that stat.

Tommy has only been sacked once in the past two games but NW is averaging 2 sacks per game. Times TA2 sacked (over/under): 2

Push. He was sacked twice.

DPE's longest punt return (over/under) - (the Wildcats are holding opponents to -1.6 yards per return average; yes that was a negative number):  20

Way under. His only return went for -1 yards. To be fair, in other cases, NW was punting away from him, so Nebraska did get OK field position a couple other times just because he was back there.

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What are your thoughts? Did I miss something? Tell me in the comments!