Northwestern has seemed to be kryponite to Nebraska ever since the Huskers joined the Big Ten. The two schools that use the “NU” abbreviation couldn’t be more opposite: Nebraska has always had the higher rated athletes, according to the recruiting services. But why does Northwestern always seem to make life miserable for the Huskers?
Execution. Northwestern generally plays smart; they may play with the least amount of talent in the west division, but they maximize that talent. At it’s core, it’s what Pat Fitzgerald does. They maximize what they do.
And on Saturday, Nebraska didn’t.
Nebraska gained more yards (442-317) than Northwestern. Doubled the number of first downs (28-14). Ran more plays (88-65) and led in time of possession. The two teams tied in terms of turnovers, and Northwestern even had more penalty yards than Nebraska.
Yet Northwestern still won 21-13.
The frustration continues, and we’re running out of patience. Yet patience is what we need in this rather weird, dystopian season. Look at the Big Ten standings, where you see Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State all with losing records.
It’s easy to get to angry again, but anger is rarely a productive emotion in the long term.
Is there something to be hopeful about? During those last two drives of the game, Nebraska had as many as six freshmen in the game on offense. Luke McCaffrey at quarterback. Zavier Betts and Marcus Fleming at receiver. Marvin Scott at I-back. Bryce Benhart and Ethan Piper on the offensive line. And arguably, those were two of Nebraska’s best drives of the game.
The progress we’ve seen in this program has been slow, and sometimes takes two steps back with every step forward. Whether fans are ready to press the panic button or are waiving the white flag, I know that Bill Moos and the rest of Nebraska’s administration are not flinching in their support. They know that failure is not an option and are giving Scott Frost plenty of leash to build this program back. They are patient, even as games like this one sap the patience of every single Husker fan out there.
With that, it’s on to the report card. As always, your comments are welcome below.
QB: This might have been Adrian Martinez’s worst game at quarterback; his throws were erratic and some of his decision making might have been even worse. He still topped the century mark on the ground, though, with 102 yards rushing. Luke McCaffrey relieved Martinez late in the game and threw the ball better, completing 12 of 16 passes. I would have liked to have seen both playmakers in the game at the same time, if only to break some of the funk the offense seemed to be in. When McCaffrey came into the game, Nebraska seemed to open up the passing game and throw more downfield than the dink/dunk/swing game that Martinez seems to struggle with. I don’t know if that was a coincidence or just a realization that NU was running out of time (or if Martinez was checking down to the shorter passes he struggles with), but I think the playcalling appeared better late than it was for most of the game. Grade: D
I-Back: I don’t think Dedrick Mills had a great game, but he didn’t have a lot of help either. Two of his most glaring mistakes were on gadget plays (a fumbled direct snap and the flea-flicker), but way too often, Mills was fighting off tacklers in the backfield. That’s not on him. Nebraska desperately needs a downfield passing threat to keep defenses honest. Grade: C-
Wide Receiver: I liked what I saw of Marcus Fleming, and Zavier Betts made a couple of plays late in the game. I do think Nebraska may have overcompensated for the overuse of Wan’Dale Robinson last year by underutilizing him this season. There’s a happier medium out there where he takes 5-6 snaps a game in the backfield. Grade: C+
Offensive Line: With Cam Jurgens out, the revamped line struggled early, especially with penalties. Four of Nebraska’s six penalties were from the line in the first quarter, with two of them taking Nebraska out of field goal position on the first drive. It neutered the Huskers offense the rest of the quarter and squandered one scoring opportunity. Grade: C-
Defensive Line: Ty Robinson had a big game with 4 tackles (one for a loss) and a quarterback hurry. Ben Stille had four tackles as well. Overall, the defense played fine, aside from the opening drives each half. Grade: B
Linebackers: Wow, Luke Reimer, filling in for Will Honas and giving the Huskers a Big Ten tackle performance with a sack. Actually, all of the linebackers played well. JoJo Domann’s tackle for a loss in the first quarter led to a missed Northwestern field goal on the next play; that tackle probably saved at least three points. Grade: A-
Secondary: Myles Farmer had a huge first half with three tackles and two interceptions; Nebraska might never have scored a touchdown without Farmer’s second interception return. Deonatai Williams and Cam Taylor-Britt each had a tackle for loss after returning from their first half suspensions; Williams needs to work on his tackling form, though, as he may be overcompensating trying not to get another targeting call. Grade: A
Overall: C+ Criticize Nebraska’s performance Saturday all you want, but let’s give credit to 3-0 Northwestern. That 43-3 victory over Maryland looks awfully good after Minnesota and Penn State turtled against them the last two weeks. The defense played well enough to win, and the offense did move the ball well at times. Northwestern’s defense was giving up just 250 yards per game the first two weeks; Nebraska’s 442 looks pretty good in comparison. But 13 points? Yuck.
How would you grade the Huskers for their loss to Northwestern?
This poll is closed
A - Great defense and the best offensive performance yet against the Wildcats?
B - Great defense scuttled by an offense that got close but couldn’t quite make it to the end zone.
C - Could have been better on offense
D - Didn’t win. AGAIN.
Elsewhere in College Football
Notre Dame: A Even the biggest Notre Dame hater has to pencil them into the playoff at this point.
Notre Dame students 0 I doubt you’ll be allowed inside the stadium again this season once your quarantine is over. (And so hypocritical as well.)
Michigan State: 0 Bad Sparty. BAAAAAAAAD.
Indiana: A Want respect? You’re earning it.