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View From The Press Box: Northwestern Edition

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The Huskers battle the Wildcats during Homecoming weekend under the lights at Memorial Stadium.

A gift to the Media. Showing off Tom Osborne 255 Collection
Tyler Wieseler

It finally feels like football weather around the Cornhusker State and as someone who works outside for a living, it’s been nice to get a break from the heat that has been beating down on me for most of the summer. Since it was a good day, this particular writer got lost after parking his Dodge Charger in a garage off campus. I was standing outside the Capital Building before I realized I was definitely NOT anywhere near reaching Memorial Stadium. I normally have a good sense of direction, but today my mind was not functioning properly.

But enough of my pre game directional woes. I made it! I’m back! The press box feels like my home away from home. I’m chatting up other journalists and photographers. They tell me they loved my last article. I chatted with Matt Millen, one half of the BTN commentary booth, for about fifteen minutes on the state of college football.

Confession Time: Everything, except that last bit, is false. Or, at least, to the best of my knowledge, it’s false. Not to worry, though. Give me time to come out of my shell. By the end of this season, they are gonna love me.

It was cool of Mr. Millen to come by and chat. It’s a little empty on this side of the press box.

PRE GAME OBSERVATIONS AND WHISPERS

Some buzz about a running back not named Stepp, Johnson, or Morrison was the talk of the press box early prior to warm-ups. Some word that Jaquez Yant, the powerful back from Tallahassee, Florida, was ready to contribute to the offense. We’ll see once game time rolls around.

He looked effective in warm-ups taking 2nd team reps.

Oliver Martin was warming up and running routes. Fingers crossed the speedy, Junior wide out contributes in this game. He had a lot of buzz on him coming out of fall camp as a trusted weapon for Adrian Martinez.

Offensive line was a mash up. Starters were announced as follows; Corcoran, Hixson, Jurgens, Sichterman, Benhart. I’ve heard this might not be the actual line up. Look for Coach Frost and O Line Coach, Greg Austin, to shake it up if the boys struggle. Piper, Nouili, Prochazka, and Miller could all get legitimate looks.

FIRST QUARTER

67 degrees at kickoff. Heck yes. My kind of weather. Wildcats won the toss and differed to the second half, so a clean opening drive was what the sell-out crowd was watching for. Fingers crossed.

Huskers started on the 25 yard line after Charlie Kuhbander’s touchback. Kuhbander is 40, right? Seriously, the guy has been there for years. Check his eligibility. 1st play of the game. 70 yard strike to Samari Toure, almost carrying in two defenders, but brought down on the 5 yard line. Next play, four yards by Rahmir Johnson. Finally, 1 yard run in by Adrian Martinez. TOUCHDOWN HUSKERS! LET THOSE BALLOONS FLY! Culp good on the XP.

3 plays. 75 yards. 50 seconds. NO PENALTIES.

EFFICIENCY. EFFICIENCY. EFFICIENCY.

That is what this offense is capable of every drive, if they get out of their own damn way.

Fair catch on Brendan Franke kick. BLACKSHIRT TIME!

A six play, 12 yard drive ends with an exclamation point. Super Senior, Jojo Domann, lays a monster sack on Wildcat Quarterback, Ryan Hilinski, for -9 yards. Punt was fair caught by Oliver Martin at the 22 yard line. Huskers take over with 11:32 in the First Quarter.

Yant DOES get the call in the second series. Gain of 5 on 1st down. Then after 2 pass plays, he busts open for a 64 yard run, down to the 4 yard line. 2 plays later, ANOTHER 1 yard TD run by Martinez. Culp XP is good.

6 plays. 78 yards. 2:13 off the clock.

Huskers are rolling and look determined to put 70 on the board.

Franke touchback. 9:19 remaining as Northwestern takes over at 25 yard line.

Our defense is SOOOO good, that Northwestern resorted to tripping Garrett Nelson, which cost them 13 yards. 3 and out on 4th and 17.

Fair catch by Oliver Martin. Glad to see him back out on the field. Offense takes over on their 36 yard line. 7:43 remaining.

After marching to the 25 yard line, the offense looked like it might stall, after two overthrown balls to Toure and Betts, respectively. But, on 3rd and 10, Martinez runs a speed option with Johnson and a seam opens on the right side, allowing him to run into the end zone from 25 yards out, untouched. Culp’s XP was good.

11 plays. 64 yards. 3:31 off the clock. 4:14 left to play in the 1st quarter.

Northwestern returns to the 18 yard line. Ironically, the amount of yards they have up to this point. That’s right. 18 yards. Compared to 217 yards by the Huskers to this point with 4:08 remaining in the 1st.

Spoke too soon. The Wildcats drive 82 yards down the field and Hilinski hits Wide Receiver, Stephon Robinson Jr., for a 28 yard touchdown toss. Kuhbander XP good.

7 plays. 82 yards. 2:31.

Touchback Kuhbander. Huskers take over on 25 yard line with 1:37 left in the 1st quarter.

Huskers possess the ball through the end of the quarter. Start the 2nd Quarter on Northwestern’s 46 yard line.

HUSKERS: 21 / WILDCATS: 7

SECOND QUARTER

From 5 yards out, Rahmir Johnson runs it in for 6. Culp XP is good.

10 plays. 75 yards. 4 minutes. Huskers chewed off some clock in the opening of the 2nd, 12:37 remains in the half.

Franke touchback.

Wildcats drive 75 yards, mostly through the air, which ends up on the 1 yard line. Hilinski sneak fails. 2nd and 1 and the Wildcats punch it...

A FUMBLE FORCED BY JOJO AND RECOVERED BY THE BLACKSHIRTS. D-TRAIN! DEONTRE THOMAS DENIES NORTHWESTERN!

Huskers take over on at the 10 yard line. 9:22 remaining.

Huskers go for it on 4th down and 5, after a promising drive stalls on a poor pitch by Martinez to Zavier Betts. The 4th down pass was high. Wildcats take over at the 43 yard line. 5:34 remaining in the half.

After an intentional grounding penalty was assessed on Hilinski on 2nd down, the Wildcats go for it on 4th and 9. They get 4. Blackshirts bow up again. Turnover on downs. 1:52 remains in the half with the Huskers taking over on their 41 yard line. 2 minute drive time.

Levi Falck with two crucial catches on this drive, one for 18 and one for 7. Dude is just dependable. Rahmir Johnson breaks loose for 23 yards all the way to the 9 yard line. Rahmir finishes it off from 9 yards out. Huskers score before the half. Culp XP is good.

5 plays. 59 yards. 1:10. 42 seconds remain in the half.

Franke kickoff is fair caught. Northwestern takes over on their 25 yard line.

Forced fumble and Sack by OLB, Caleb Tannor, to end the half.

HUSKERS: 35 / WILDCATS: 7

HALFTIME MUSINGS

  1. NO PENALTIES BY THE HUSKERS IN THE FIRST HALF!!! SERIOUSLY, DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THE LAST TIME THAT HAPPENED? BECAUSE I DON’T. (Northwestern incidentally had 3 penalties for 18 yards).
  2. Jaquez Yant...Holy S#*t. 7 carries for 109 yards...in one half. But, I would be doing a disservice to Rahmir Johnson if I didn’t give him props for his stat line. 12 carries for 74 yards and 2 TDs. Have we finally found our Thunder/Lightning combo? The 234 yards in the half, along with an 8.6 YPC average had me foaming at the mouth for the 2nd half.
  3. Prochazka, Nouili, Jurgens, Sichterman, Corcoran from Left to Right, respectively. 398 yards in the first half. Clean play. In my opinion, pencil these boys in as the starting five for the rest of the season. Impressive.
  4. 2AM was 2AM. 10-16 for 164 yards. 8 carries for 57 yards and 3 TDs. Grown @** man doing grown @** things. Please come back for your Senior season, Adrian. Paul from Ainsworth didn’t mean to call you worthless two years ago.
  5. Blackshirts make me believe this season is far from over. This team can still be special, especially if all three phases continue to play football like they did in the 1st half of this game.

THIRD QUARTER

Northwestern received to start the second half. Franke Touchback.

3 and out. Wildcats punt from their 32 yard line. Fair catch by Martin at the 17. 14:01 remaining in the 3rd.

1st play, Martinez quick pitches out to Zavier Betts, and he puts on the afterburners. 83 yards to the house. 13 seconds off the clock. Culp XP is good.

Northwestern lost a lot from last season’s Big Ten West Championship team, but I don’t think Coach Fitzgerald expected a drop off like this. Jinxes aside, this game is a true beat down. Multiple game frustration manifestation of manslaughter.

Franke kickoff is fair caught again. 13:48 remaining in 3rd.

Our first penalty of the night is a pass interference by ILB, Nick Heinrich, but OLB, Garrett Nelson, nearly redeems the mistake with a 12 yard sack on Hilinski the following play.

After reaching Nebraska’s 42 yard line, Wildcats go for it on 4th and 10. Pressure up the middle. No one home. Turnover on downs. AGAIN. 9:57 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Aided by a pass interference call on the Wildcats, 2AM hooks up with Toure in the back of the end zone from 28 yards out. He has 2 catches for 108 yards and a TD to this point. I’m glad he transferred here from Big Sky Country. Culp XP good.

2 plays. 57 yards. 41 seconds. 9:16 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Franke touchback.

Drive stalls on Wildcat 42 yard line. They punt. Apparently, they learned from their previous 4th down mistakes. Martin calls for the fair catch at their 8 yard line. 7:46 remaining in the 3rd.

Logan Smothers in at QB now, along with Piper and Benhart at LG and RT, respectively. Also seeing reserve TE’s, Chancellor Brewington and Nate Boerkircher. Benhart draws a false start on the first play. Probably why you didn’t start, sir. 3 and out.

William Pryzstup back to punt. Looks like he won the battle this week. He proceeded to punt it 84 yards. Yes. You read that right. 84 yards. Ball was downed at Wildcat 6 yard line by the coverage team. Special teams being special. 3 phases showing up for a W up to this point. 5:28 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Wildcats move the ball to their 37 yard line. Big 3rd down stop by Jojo. 4th and 2. Wildcat Punter, Derek Adams, punts the ball only 28 yards. Martin fair catch on Husker 46. 2:47 remaining.

Huskers move to Northwestern 38 yard line as the 3rd comes to a close.

HUSKERS: 49 / WILDCATS: 7

“Thunderstruck” by AC/DC to start the 4th Quarter with some sick pyrotechnics in either end zone.

Night games are the best.

The Cornhusker’s 2nd team offense scores on a soul-crushing 13 play, 64 yard drive that took up 8 minutes and 3 seconds. Sevion Morrison takes it in from 4 yards out. Culp XP Good. 9:44 remains in the game.

Franke kickoff is fair caught. Northwestern to start at 25 yard line.

All reserve defense at this point. Reserves get the job done and force a punt by the Wildcats on their 48 yard line. Fair catch Martin on the 12 yard line. 7:18 remaining.

Matt Masker in the game now. If you haven’t heard his episode with Adrian Martinez on Athletes Unfiltered, give it a listen. The QB room itself was great, Smothers and Heinrich Haarberg were articulate and engaging, but Masker stole the show. A Nebraska dude carrying on the legacy of #18 for all the right reasons, I’m sure Brook would be proud.

Some third team and freshman get a look, Huskers milk the clock and carry it all the way down to the 12 yard line. Masker kneels on the last play of the game. Final and fireworks!

HUSKERS: 56 / WILDCATS: 7

POST GAME REACTIONS AND MUSINGS

  1. Huskers win. Seems arbitrary to list it first. But as Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game.”
  2. Offensive Line looked like a completely new unit tonight. Alright, fair, most of it was but with that many changes I wasn’t expecting this production. 427 yards on the ground off 53 carries. That’s over 8.0 Yards Per Carry. 657 yards total.
    Don’t be surprised if this is not the group from now on. Teddy Prochazka looked comfortable protecting Adrian’s blind side and Tanner Corcoran is talented enough to play any of the five offensive line spots. Noredin Nouili, a transfer from Colorado State, was a starter for the Rams as a freshman and walked on to the Cornhusker after transfer. He plays with some nasty. I remember him saying he wanted to play his way into a scholarship. He may have done that with this performance.
  1. Adrian Martinez threw only 1 more pass the entire game after Halftime. A 38 yard pass to Samori Toure in stride towards the back corner of the end zone. 4 total TDs. over 250 yards of offense alone. 2AM is something special. But, getting to see our eventual future in a guy like Logan Smothers, in a game that does matter, meant good things for this program as well.
  2. This defense is on a whole other level right now. The buzz of Coach Chinander being up in the booth, strategically positioning these guys to maximum success, was brought up and echoed in post game comments by Deontre Thomas and Jojo Domann. It’s crazy to think they can actually be better.
    After the Wildcats only managed 293 yards of total offense, the attitude of the Blackshirts is that they can. Spooky season is upon us, Husker Nation. Let’s hope this defense continues to be the type of nightmare that offensive coaches wake up at 3 AM with cold sweats about. Happy Halloween, Big Ten!
  3. Special Teams were better. Not great, but better. It was comforting to see someone fielding punts and calling for a fair catch when they were supposed to. Brendan Franke continues to use his powerful leg to create touchbacks more often than not. As for, Pryzstup, who beat out Daniel Cerni this week for punting duties, didn’t cost us the game. In fact, drew the loudest applause of the night with his 84 yard bomb. It’s a baby step, Husker fans. It’s a step forward and hopefully not back.

I got to spend the last 4 to 5 minutes at field level of Memorial Stadium as the offense kneeled on the final possession to end the game. I posted a video via Corn Nation’s Twitter feed and admired the fans still in attendance. It sounds corny, but it felt like a cleansing. For you religious folk out there, a baptism. A chance for the scrutiny and the doubt, for one Saturday evening at least, to be washed away with a well needed complete game from all three phases of this team.

I said it at Halftime, are we seeing the bad times, the bad luck, the dumb mistakes, come to an end? Ask yourself how you felt Saturday night prior to kickoff, to how you felt afterwards. I can’t speak for you, but this writer sees an opportunity to build on this. The past is the past for a reason. You can’t change it. But you can grow, learn from your mistakes, and use positive moments (like the countless ones we witnessed Saturday night) and push forward striving to duplicate or out perform past expectations. Sunday morning’s aches and pains will hurt significantly less for every one of those players, because they can look at themselves in the mirror and say when they played to their potential, they could not be stopped.

So sleep soundly this week, Husker Nation.

Bring on the Wolverines.