The tenth ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers laid an egg, losing to Northwestern Saturday in Lincoln. The Wildcats sliced up the Husker defense, and Nebraska never got that potent running game going all game.
After defensive coordinator Carl Pelini handed out the legendary Blackshirts, after a masterful performance a week ago holding Michigan State to three points and just 187 total yards, the Husker defense couldn’t quite seem to lock in against the spread attack of the Wildcats. Senior quarterback Dan Persa and back up sophomore quarterback/wide receiver Kain Colter scrambled and created plays time and time again to stunt the defensive effort of the Blackshirts.
On the day, Northwestern gained 468 total yards. The effort was extremely balanced with the Wildcats going for 261 yards through the air and 207 yards on the ground. That balance mixed with a nine point advantage in time of possession helped the Wildcats upset Nebraska, and nullify a gutsy performance through the air by Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez.
It started early with Nebraska going into halftime trailing, for the first time in three games, 7-3. On the opening drive of the second half Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter pushed the lead to 14-3, on a controversial touchdown dive from three yards out. Martinez fired back zipping a 15 yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Tim Marlowe. The catch was the first touchdown for the Huskers in the game, and Marlowe’s first career touchdown grab.
Northwestern began the fourth quarter, much like it did in the third, with a two play drive spanning just 41 seconds ending in a 81 yard catch and run by senior wide receiver Jeremy Ebert making it 21-10. The Huskers wouldn’t quit. Martinez led another methodical drive with junior running back Rex Burkehead punching it in from one yard out to cut it to 21-16. Nebraska went for the two point conversion, and Martinez dove in on an option keep igniting the crowd and Northwestern now leading by just a field goal 21-18.
With all the momentum, that vaunted Blackshirt defense had a chance to be hero with just one stop. But, today would not be there day. The Wildcats held the ball for 13 plays ripping off a precious 7:21 off of the play clock and scored from the one yard line. On the drive Colter converted two huge fourth downs, the last being aforementioned touchdown to make it 28-18 with just a little over a minute left to play.
Nebraska again fought hard driving right down the field. The Huskers scored on a Martinez strike to freshmen wide receiver Kenny Bell from 14 yards away to cut the lead to 28-25 with :18 to play.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by Northwestern subsequently ending the game with the final score at 28-25. Kain Colter was a game changer. After watching his leader Persa go down midway through the second quarter with an apparent shoulder injury, Colter stepped in and didn’t miss a beat.
Colter led the Wildcats to three scoring drives having a hand in all of them, running in two and tossing the strike to Ebert. Colter’s final stats: 4 of 6 passing for 115 yards and a touchdown, 17 carries for 57 yards, and he also caught three passes for another 57 yards. Senior running back Jacob Schmidt scored the other Wildcat touchdown, punching in the first points of the game from two yards out.
The Wildcats did throw two interceptions, one by starter Persa and another by third string freshmen quarterback Trevor Siemian, and lost a fumble, but that did not effect there overall assault on the Husker defense all day.
Colter’s counterpart, Taylor Martinez, kept Nebraska in the game throughout. He was 28 of 37, with 289 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also made some big plays with his feet rushing 12 times for 53 yards. He never gave in while watching his defense give up some big plays and never really allowing him an opportunity.
The key stat was the Husker rushing performance. Going in, Northwestern was 95 th in the country against the run, but that vulnerability proved northing as Nebraska totaled just 122 rushing yards on the day. The Wildcats held all everything running back Rex Burkehead to 69 yards on 22 carries, his first performance in four games he didn’t go over 100 yards rushing. Burkehead also lost a fumble, one of two by the Huskers the other by sophomore wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, early in the second quarter at the goal line going in.
As stated the fleet footed Martinez busted some nice runs, but there was never a consistent push up front. For the entire game the Huskers gained 411 total yards.
Nebraska (7-2 and 3-2 in Big Ten play) looks to keep their divisional hopes alive this week traveling to University Park to battle the Big Ten’s best Penn State,. Northwestern (4-5 and 2-4 in Big Ten play) looks to keep their winning ways playing a non-conference home game against Rice Saturday.