The Huskers show that they have nerves of steel and a defense that cannot be overlooked. The Wildcats are always a tough test for Nebraska and they overcame their own mistakes to ensure the win.
Sam Cotton was the honorary captain today The Huskers received the ball to start the game.
The first series saw the Huskers put up some big plays before disaster struck as Terrell Newby tried to score the touchdown. He fumbled the ball at the one and it went out of the end zone for a Northwestern touchback.
Nebraska 0 Northwestern 0
Northwestern immediately went to Justin Jackson who was gaining yardage on the ground and catching passes to gain a couple of first downs. The drive stalled at midfield with linebackers Rose-Ivey and Young forcing a fourth down. How happy is everyone to see #15 out there making plays after all he has endured, injury-wise, the past two years?
Not surprisingly, NW punted away from the other #15, De’Mornay Pierson-El, and the Huskers took over at their 21. Ozigbo showed he was just as tough as Justin Jackson by carrying Cats with him on the first carry of the series. Alonzo Moore caught the second down pass but got up clearly hurting (shoulder) and then Ozigbo was stopped short of the first down. Coach Riley gambled and the Huskers BARELY converted on the QB keeper by Tommy Armstrong. A bad series of plays including a fumbled snap gave the Huskers a 3rd and 22. The pass was dropped by Brandon Reilly and the Huskers punted. Caleb Lightbourn’s punt traveled 44 yards to the Wildcat 36.
Northwestern quickly reeled off chunks of yardage and even showed some option. They were using tempo to try and keep the Huskers on their heels. It was working as the other NU was carving up the Blackshirts and quickly entered the red zone. The Blackshirts found themselves in time to force the field goal try. The 28-yarder was no good as the Wildcat kicker dropped to 1 of 4 for the season.
Nebraska 0 Northwestern 0
The first series looked doomed to end after a bad snap on 3rd down. Tommy scrambled and made a play that only he can and completed the pass for the first down. The NW defense was watching Ozigbo closely as he was not finding much room on first down. A NW pass interference call gave the Huskers a free 15 yards to set the Nebraska offense up near midfield. The Wildcat defense was leaving big cushions for the wide receivers and Langsdorf rightly began to go to the air a little more. NW was absolutely shutting down Husker first down runs.
The first quarter ended tied 0-0
During the intermission, the radio guys talked about how wide open the Wildcats were leaving the middle of the field as they were cheating the linebackers up. I thought “Cethan Carter time”. Guess who caught the first pass of the quarter? Yep #11. First and goal Nebraska. Unfortunately, the Huskers could not capitalize and had to settle for a 23 yard Drew Brown field goal.
Nebraska 3 Northwestern 0
Northwestern continued to go with no-huddle with Justin Jackson as the main workhorse (no surprise there). The Huskers were having trouble bringing him down one-on-one. Nate Gerry was all over the field making tackles for the Blackshirts, playing closer to the line than normal. A holding call on Northwestern gave Mike Riley a choice between 4th and 1 or 3rd and 11. He chose 3rd down since a 1⁄2 yard was clearly 4-down territory for the purple. The Blackshirts held and forced a 4th and 6 to force the punt. DPE fair caught the ball at the 12 yard line.
Nebraska came out firing with nothing to show for it as they went three-and-out. Lightbourn punted from his own end zone. Northwestern came away with good field position at the Nebraska 42.
The first play was a quarterback counter and Thorson took it to the house (untouched). He had -2 yards rushing all season before that play. It felt like 2015 all over again as he gouged the Huskers for well over 100 yards on the ground in the game in Lincoln despite being an almost-zero running threat any other game.
Northwestern 7 Nebraska 3
Tommy answered with a zone read and was within a hair of taking his own run in for a TD. The Huskers worked their way across midfield but when the drive stalled, Mike Riley opted for the punt rather than 56 yard field goal. Lightbourn’s punt went out of bounds at the 11.
Aaron Williams tackled Jackson for a loss of 2 on first down. He gained them back on the next play with Keiron Williams suffering an injury on the play. On 3rd and 10, the flag was a chop block on NW. The penalty was declined and the Blackshirts forced their first 3-and-out of the game. DPE fair-caught the ball right around midfield. There was 4:46 left in the half and Northwestern gets the ball first in the second half.
Sam Cotton registered his first catch of the season for a first down and then Tommy ran for 38 yards down to the 2 yard line. First and goal. Then Disaster #2 struck as Ozigbo fumbled into the end zone recovered by the Wildcats for a touchback. The radio guys complained that forward progress had stopped with no whistles, but football is football. Officials are usually better to let the play go and not blow whistles too early. Unfortunately, this decision cost Nebraska in this instance.
Northwestern got the ball on the 20 with 3:20 left in the half. The Blackshirts forced a 3-and-out. They punted away from DPE.
The first play was a 59 yard YOLO ball to Alonzo Moore who was finally dragged down at the 4 yard line. FIRST AND GOAL. Terrell Newby ran it in on the next play (and DID NOT FUMBLE INTO THE END ZONE). Touchdown Nebraska.
Nebraska 10 Northwestern 7
Northwestern came out slinging to move the ball quickly. A PI on Aaron Williams (worth noting it was the first one of the game for the Huskers) and NW was in field goal range (that is, if they had a field goal kicker). Back to back sacks by Kevin Maurice pushed NW back to the 38 with 38 seconds left. We can haz some pass rush! The third down pass was caught at the 22 and NW elected to kick the 40 yard field goal rather than go for the whole enchilada on 4th down. Wait a minute! They faked it and failed to convert.
The Huskers kneeled to end the half.
Nebraska 10 Northwestern 7
--Place-kicker Drew Brown connected on a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter. The kick was Brown’s 13th consecutive made field goal.
--Kevin Maurice had two sacks for 12 yards in the second quarter on back-to-back plays. Maurice had 1.5 sacks in his career prior to the two sacks.
--Nebraska did not score in the first quarter, marking the first quarter this season Nebraska did not score a point. NU scored in the first 12 quarters of the 2016 season.
HALFTIME: Nebraska 10 Northwestern 7— Samuel McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) September 25, 2016
It's the first time Nebraska has led NW at half in the last 6 games.
You read that right.
Nebraska looked like they had stopped the NW drive but a hands-to-the face penalty gave the Wildcats new life and they capitalized. That is, until Aaron Williams stepped in front of a Thorson pass and intercepted in the end zone. Touchback Huskers. The much-maligned secondary of 2015 has evolved into a ball-hawking unit.
Tommy ran on a zone read and gained a chunk-o-yards out to the 37 and then the Huskers went to Devine Ozigbo for a nice ground gain. The early game zone runs weren’t gaining much but the coaches switched to some power (somewhat successfully). My video stream was balky and I couldn’t tell if they stuck with the power or not. On 3rd and 8, Tommy made a great pass, Brandon Reilly ran well after the catch and then was horse-collared to put the Huskers on the 4. First and goal. Newby got nothing on first down and then Tommy overshot Westerkamp. Third and goal.......and then Cethan Carter catches it for the TOUCHDOWN!!!!
This was #11’s first touchdown of the season. Drew Brown’s point after was good.
Nebraska 17 Northwestern 7
Nebraska drew a penalty on the kick return (originally called on NW) which put the Wildcats in really good field position rather than inside the 20. Within one pass, the Cats were down to the Husker 37. It took a little more work, but they worked their way down to the 25 and the following play resulted in a long Wildcat touchdown pass. The extra point was no good. Bad news for Nebraska - Josh Kalu went down injured after landing awkwardly trying to jump up on the kick.
Nebraska 17 Northwestern 13
Sideline reports indicated Kalu was probably going to be OK.
Jordan Westerkamp made his first catch of the game for a 13 yard gain at the 34. On the next play, Tommy went over 100 yards rushing with a 7 yard zone read gain. Mikale Wilbon entered the game (he appears to have moved ahead of the fumble-prone freshman Tre Bryant in the rotation). Alonzo Moore left the game after not being able to block and spring Wilbon for even more. Sideline reports indicated that Moore was done for the game and a shortly afterward a Husker offensive lineman stayed down on the turf. Initial reports were that Tanner Farmer was hurt and the injury did not look good.
The rare end-around with a tight end (seriously, what other football team would do that if they didn’t have Cethan Carter) gained a first down. After a TA2 zone read, the Huskers were quickly into the red zone. Wilbon was still the I-back. FRESH LEGS.
AND THEN THE END-AROUND TO WESTERKAMP......TOUCHDOWN!!! Jordan had around 100 family and friends in the stands, so it was awesome that the senior wideout made such an important play. Drew’s kick was good.
Nebraska 24 Northwestern 13
Northwestern again went to Justin Jackson as the workhorse. The results were mixed as he would gain some yards but then get stuffed. The Blackshirts were smelling blood in the water but still allowed a first down on a Thorson slide. The next set of downs showed a jittery Thorson as he made a couple poor passes and the Husker secondary defended well. Unfortunately Nebraska burned a couple of timeouts on this series (one on defense and another on the punt return formation - Bruce Read STRIKES AGAIN!).
The punt bounced into the end zone. Touchback.
I have not mentioned many NW players by name in this recap besides Thorson and Jackson, but Ifeadi Odenigbo deserves a shoutout as he has been all over the field frustrating the Huskers all night.
This next Huskers series involved “all-hands-on-deck” as it seemed like everyone was called upon and made their methodical clock-chewing contributions to the offense. Corey Whitaker was in for Tanner Farmer on the offensive line. A crucial third down could have gone against NU badly but NW dropped a sure pick-six. Lightbourn’s punt was great and hit at the 1 yard line, but then bounced into the end zone for a touchback.
Northwestern got the ball and quickly registered their first first-down of the half. After a few more good plays, a holding call brought a nice Jackson gain back for the Cats 4th penalty to give them a 3rd and 10 at the 37. (9:10 left) Thorson scrambled for three and Fitzgerald sent the punt team out. DPE fair-caught the ball at the 12.
The conservative play call still netted a first down as Tommy gained a first down on the zone read. Tommy was within 1 yard of his career-high rushing total. DPE (playing for Alonzo Moore) caught a crucial first down. Mikale Wilbon made some nice plays (it is great to see another back emerge). It looked like the Huskers registered a first down in the red zone but a chop block brought the Huskers back to a 3rd and 23. Huskers tried to use some clock and were forced to punt. They took 4 minutes off the clock.
Lightbourn’s punt (right around the 4 minute mark) bounced into the end zone.
Northwestern went conservative with 3 and 4 yard passes and zone reads to Jackson. Time was ticking. But then they picked up a 23 yard gain over good coverage by Kalu near midfield. (2:28 left) On the radio broadcast, I could hear the “Defense” chant from Husker fans.
Northwestern kept working the sideline for some short gains but was sacked for the 3rd time by Stoltenberg and Gerry. For some reason, Fitzgerald did not use any timeouts. The following play was intercepted by Josh Kalu! NW still had all three timeouts even though they were not worth any points.
Devine Ozigbo came back out to gain a crucial first down. Even with NW using their timeouts the end of this game began to feel inevitable.
Final score Nebraska 24 Northwestern 13