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Nebraska Football Recap: Huskers 35 Northern Illinois 11

Matt Rhule gets his first win as a Husker head coach and Heinrich Haarberg handles business in his first start

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Andy: So before today, what came to mind when Husker fans thought of Huskers vs Northern Illinois?

  • 2017
  • NIU 24 Nebraska 17
  • Two Tanner Lee pick-sixes in the 1st quarter
  • Come back to tie it. Lose.
  • At least it got Shawn Eichorst fired.

Fortunately, history did not repeat itself as the Blackshirts shut down a fairly woeful Husky offense (11 points makes them sound much more effective than they were) and Heinrich Haarberg was effective both throwing and running in a debut which should lock down the starting job at least next week regardless of anyone’s injuries. You know, unless Matt Rhule wants set the state on fire.

Jill: What is going on with Matt Rhule’s tongue?

Heinrich Haarberg’s performance is sure to elicit talk of a QB controversy. I tend to believe that Sims will be back as soon as he is healthy but I liked what I saw from the Kearney native.

Anyway - onto recap details:


  • Jill; Jeff Sims is on the field for warm ups, but it looks like today’s offense will be run by Heinrich Haarberg. Most of us expected this and it seems to be confirmed now.
  • Andy: I think the word got out on Haarberg - when I woke up this morning the line had jumped to -13 and has settled back to -12.5 currently.
  • A: Things are not going well if the line jumps up when you’re starter is out/benched.
  • A: The injury report is spotless barring players already out long-term. Per above, Sims is dressed, however is listed as questionable.


  • A: Three and out for the D…and the offense has to burn a timeout on 1st down. They’re ready. (J: You might say they are in mid-season form. More timeouts than plays - bold strategy)
  • J: Haarberg’s got some wheels. He’s also completed a pass to Washington and is making good decisions in the zone read game. Me likey.
  • A: Huskies committed hard to clogging the middle and Haarberg made some nice reads on option keeps left. Beautiful drive.
  • J: Touchdown! Haarberg to Kemp. Nebraska 7 NIU 0

A: I love it when guys make catches signal 1st down well short of an actual 1st down. Colorado set the bar high there.

J: The Blackshirts stopped the Huskies near midfield with a fourth and two. NIU punted to Kemp. Not a three and out, but a solid effort.

A: And now - the real reason for the new clock rules! More commercials! College football is like watching a show on AMC these days. (J: Awww, come on Andy. The new rules are totally about player safety and well-being)

A: Good pass blocking there (S). That didn’t take long.

J: Drive #2....

A: The defense answers the first episode of Blackshirt Turnover Challenge with a stop inside the 10. And FG is good for 3 points - charged to Husker offense. Nebraska 7 NIU 3

A: Welp, we seem to have quickly gotten away from what worked on the first drive. And at least Haarberg legged out of trouble that time, but pass blocking has been non-existent the last two attempts. At least this one didn’t result in another TO, good decision to get out of there, protect the ball and give the Huskies a long field.

J: Jimari Butler sacks Lombardi to force an NIU punt. Nice! (A: And there was nothing but pain waiting for Lombardi if he missed.

J: In the first Q, NU averaged 1.7 yards/carry and NIU averaged -0.6. Not a stellar day for Run The Damn Ball guy.


A: Another three and out as blocking remains awful. I’m starting to be very afraid of what Michigan will do to these guys. They appear to be regressing hard after the previous two games and the opening drive.

A: On the upside, no more turnovers. And there was a shot of Sims working with Heinrich on the sideline - I had no doubt he’d be handling it with class.

A: Bad offense plus solid defense results in a punt which Billy Kemp should have let go perhaps? Huskers will start deep in their end as the score remains 7-3, perhaps until Thanksgiving.

J: The first drive resulted in 55 yards for the Huskers. Since then...-12, 8, and 1. And just as I type that Gabe Ervin breaks loose for 14 yards! And then Grant decides he wants a big run too (9 yards).

A: OH mah gawd?? Is that the offensive line’s music? (J: I hope so!) The boys reel off tough well-blocked runs. And as I typed THAT, Gabe is stuffed.

A: And then one of the first Husker screen passes in years which made me happy. Well developed, well blocked. After that, defensive holding not called on a Washington deep route - what looked like a bad throw might’ve been there otherwise. Buschini drops a gorgeous punt fielded on the 1.

J: The Huskers are now up to 2.6 yards/carry with Ervin averaging 4.3 ypc (and Grant at 9.0 ypc).

J: The Blackshirts register another three-and-out and force NIU to punt from their end zone. The punter dropped the ball, but managed to get it out of the end zone. The Huskers have good field position at the Husky 44 yard line.

J: NIU lost track of Fidone. TOUCHDOWN NEBRASKA!!

A: For some reason, Fidone silences his own crowd with the “shush” sign, but who cares? He’s got his 2nd TD grab in two weeks on a perfect toss from Haarberg. Huskers 14 NIU 3


J: Some comments a couple weeks ago by a Husker media member about his absence of production may have something to do with Fidone’s shussh motion.

A: 1st Husky play, the line crashed through so hard I thought it was a screen. Nope. Rocky makes the “oh shit” face and takes a dive.

J: That is three sacks for the Blackshirts for those of you keeping score at home. And then Hill bails out NIU on third down by committing pass interference. (A: Closer to hitting Hill before contact than it looked on replay, but if you turn your back to the ball within a 12 mile of the receiver, old ref default setting is throw the damn flag.) (J: Agreed. On replay that looked a lot less like interference than on my first impression.)

J: The Blackshirts still forced another punt and the Huskers take over on their 20.

A: Pass caught and stripped after down by Washington under review. Shockingly, call stands (sarcasm font).

Halftime: Nebraska 14 NIU 3

Haarberg is 8-12 for 75 yards. He has a QB rating of 174, which is down considerably from his rating of 416 after that first drive. Lombardi is 7-16 (lots of drops by his receivers) for 55 yards with a rating of 73. The Huskers have possessed the ball for 16 minutes and NIU for 14 minutes. The Blackshirts have five tackles for loss (30 yards).



J: The radio guys mentioned that we have not seen Rahmir Johnson. I don’t know what is going on, but I missed that detail earlier.

A: They mentioned Grant warmed up with the 2nd team pre-game. The guess is suspension of some sort or dinged up in warmups since he wasn’t on the injury report.

A: Offense can’t get it going (Haarberg deep ball on 3rd down very close) but special teams warrior Phalen Sanford wipes out the return for nothing.

A: The Blackshirts do their thing but NoIlli’s version of Sandford takes out Kemp for no gain. People should not expect much from Kemp on the punt returns - think Santino plus a couple. He never averaged more than like 6.5 yards per return at Virginia. And then Gabe smokes some poor bastard - tell it, JIll!

J: Gabe Ervin busts off a nice run, but probably should have gotten a taunting flag after he smacktalked the poor fool he trucked in the process.

A: It’s not taunting if homeboy’s not awake to see it. (J: I concede the point)

J: Huskers punt. Again. (A: Do anger emojis work in here. I feel like Jill needs an anger emoji.

A: Of course, if the Huskers can’t cover against this NIU offense, that’s going to be our esteemed Husker wagerers’ faces too.

J: Heinrich and Gabe (and Fidone) power the Huskers to midfield. Ervin is running angry. And so is Bullock!! And then Heinrich trucks a guy instead of sliding. I like the effort. But I kinda still want him to slide.

A: Can we talk about another 50-lb bag of horseshit attempted drive-killing call on Alex Bullock after a 33-yard reception. Nothing but a stiff arm, helmet probably not buckled properly flies off and 16 flags fly right after it. I guarantee every ref made squealy noises of horror at the violence unleashed. Issue B1G credentials immediately to each of these worthless chodes.

A: And an eat shit flat on your back pounding 3-yard touchdown run from Gabe as the Huskers follow up said laughable call by steamrolling their way down the turf for six. You’re damn right I flipped off the telly. Huskers 21 Huskies 3

J: Is this somewhat accurate Andy?

A: 100%

J: It looked like Newsome intercepted a pass, but on replay his foot looked to be on the line.

A: Not that they bothered to look or review….

J: Are these refs from Iowa?

A: No. Then they’d be far more inept but spreading it around. But telling anyone who’d listen how classy they are.


J: An NIU false start to begin the fourth quarter? Yes, I’ll allow it.

A: It’s impressive out of the quarter break.

J: NIU punt. Husker ball at the 35.

A: Also, what Jill said. Heinrich - you’re the only healthy QB. Stop trying to f*ck someone up on every carry.

A: Heinrich with an 11-yard bullet to Washington who makes a great catch while being blanketed. As I’ve been harping this week, gameplay matters. Glad Haarberg is finally getting some. In an unrelated though, get bent, Mark Whipple.

J: Heinrich TOUCHDOWN!! Haarberg is up to 95 yards on the ground with Nebraska up to 4.56 ypc. Huskers 28 NIU 3

A: Haarberg showed off the rockets there as a couple of Huskies looked like they had the angle and then watched him blow by.

J: Javin Wright intercepts Lombardi!

A: However, Huskers are flagged 15 for Talk Shit Get Hit as Lombardi throws some snark and gets decked for it after the play. Totally worth it.

J: I think Deion Sanders took that personally.

J: The Huskers reach the red zone and Chubba relieves Heinrich. Purdy hands off to Grant for the TOUCHDOWN! Nebraska 35 NIU 3

A: The CHUBBA-LEEVERS in section 123 explode!!!

A: Okay, I made that up. (@chubba-leever copyright by A. Ketterson)

J: Jon needs a new t-shirt in the Cobby store!

A: Was that even roughing the passer in slow motion? Nice hit, Garrett.

A: NIU trying to push some over bets with a late TD. And the 2-point conversion after a couple of questionable - but still not reviewed “receptions” - cause a push at 46. Matt Rhule tells them for the final time they are terrible at their jobs even in a blowout and the final score is Huskers 35 NIU 11


The only way there will be a QB controversy next week is if Rhule trots Sims out there under the guise of “can’t lose your job because of injury”. I mean, that would be one way to ensure one of the most hostile home crowds in school history.

The Huskers rolled to 382 yards of offense, led by Haarberg with 98 on the ground and 158 through the air. Gabe Ervin pitched in 67 and Anthony Grant 46 yards. Thomas Fidone and Marcus Washington were the leading receivers with 42 and 37 yards respectively.

Next up is Louisiana Tech. Go Big Red!

Northern Illinois v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

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