In a game that was closer than it should have been, 20th ranked Nebraska left Evanston, Illinois with a 24-13 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats. The 'Cats should've been easy pickings, having lost at home to Illinois State(!!) and Western Michigan before beating Duke last week. (nb Duke would beat Notre Dame on this Saturday afternoon.)
Nebraska was coming off the high of beating Oregon in Lincoln the week previous and earning their first national ranking since December 2014, but the trip to Chicagoland proved once again to not be the easiest for the Big Red. Though the Huskers travel great, the playing surface is absolutely terrible at Ryan Field, alternating between green sand and six inch blades of grass, which slows down speedy players used to FieldTurf. Of course, both teams have to play on this pitch, but it's perhaps the worst in all of college football.
Nebraska would take the opening drive and easily move down the field, only to watch Terrell Newby let the ball slip out of hands before he crossed the pylon as he dove for paydirt. The result was a touchback. After a few drives, Northwestern missed a field goal attempt and the first quarter ended scoreless. Nebraska would take the lead early in the second stanza on a 27 yard field goal from Drew Brown. Northwestern would take the lead a few series later when Clayton Thorson would find a seam up the right side and scamper 42 yards to make it 3-7, Wildcats.
Later in the second quarter, after QB Tommy Armstrong, Jr. had a an excellent run to the Northwestern 2, Husker tailback Devine Ozigbo apparently had the ball raked out of his hands short of the goal line. The ball fell into the endzone and was recovered for the Wildcats second touchback of the game. Replays looked like forward progress was stopped, and should have been called dead, but it wasn't, making this the second 'ugh' moment of the game for the Husker faithful. Nebraska would get the ball back before half, and Tommy went right to work, with a 59 yard #YOLObomb to Alonzo Moore. Newby would do his best Simone Biles and arch his way into the endzone on the next play and the Huskers had their first TD of the game and led 10-7 at the break.
Early in the 3rd quarter, the Wildcats were moving the ball quickly, but Thorson found himself intercepted by Aaron Williams at the Husker 24. Ten plays later, Tommy found Cethan Carter for a 4 yard touchdown reception and it was 17-7 Huskers. Thanks to a penalty on the ensuing kickoff, Northwestern found themselves with a short field, and made short work of it, culminating with a 24 yard Thorson to Austin Carr TD. The extra point clanked off the left upright, so Nebraska was now leading 17-13. The next drive, Nebraska moved the ball 79 yards in 9 plays, ending with a nice Jordan Westerkamp end round carry to the left and the first rushing touchdown of his career. The extra point made the score 24-13.
The fourth quarter would be a defensive battle and saw no scoring. Joshua Kalu had a nice interception at the 2:00 minute mark to seal the Husker victory. Tommy Armstrong racked up 378 yards of total offense, including 132 on the ground, earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors!
With the win, Nebraska moves to 4-0 and finds themselves ranked Number 15 in the polls. Next for for the Huskers is a visit from the Illinois Fighting Illini. Game time is 2:30 Central on ESPN2, with Huskers play-by-play call on TuneIn.com, or the college kids at KRNU.
HuskerMax game notes versus the Northwestern Wildcats.
HuskerMax play by play and stats