Northwestern upset Nebraska in the showdown in Dublin, Ireland. Here are 10 thoughts on the good Big Ten opener.
10. Nebraska didn’t lose to Northwestern because of the onside kick decision, but it sure as shoot didn’t help.
The Huskers were up 28-17 in the third quarter on a 46-yard touchdown run from Anthony Grant, attempted an onside kick, it didn’t work, and Northwestern got in the end zone five plays later.
9. It’s too easy to blame everything on that momentum change, but yeah, it mattered. You can’t give Pat Fitzgerald’s teams even the slightest break, and Nebraska did just that. The Wildcats scored 14 unanswered points and the Huskers never really threatened again.
8. Nebraska lost because of the three turnovers – one coming late to seal the Northwestern win. It lost because the offense stalled in the fourth quarter. It lost because …
7. Northwestern’s offensive line took over. That’s how you close out a game – the Wildcat front five was finally able to blast away and grind down the fourth quarter and the clock. The O kept running, and running, and running, and then the dam burst on a key third down dash, the drives kept working, Nebraska had to burn all of the time outs, and that was it.
6. The 1-2 Northwestern rushing combination of Evan Hull and Cam Porter was terrific. They played within the frame of the game – Hull had that key third down run, keeping it inside instead of going outside and possibly going out of bounds. The two came up with 212 yards and two touchdowns.
5. Honestly – and this is nothing against the new guy – but I never quite understood the idea by some that Nebraska upgraded the quarterback spot. Adrian Martinez was very, very good, and Casey Thompson is a fine talent. He was good in the first half, ended up with 355 yards, and he spread the ball around well. However, the offense stalled when it needed to take over.
4. Nebraska needs a running game. Martinez was, for the most part, the ground attack over the last few years, but that’s not Thompson. Grant had the one big run on the way to just over 100 yards on the ground, but that was about it. The offense had to control the game on short passes, and it wasn’t able to do it.
3. There’s the Northwestern passing game that wasn’t there all last season. Ryan Hillinski didn’t throw any picks, he came up with 313 yards and two scores, and he did a strong job of keeping things moving. Obviously it all worked in the end, but the coaching staff can and should trust him more to throw it on key late third downs.
2. And now all of the pressure on Scott Frost has been tightened to a whole other level. Yes, there’s still time, and yes, it was a close loss, but now the inability to close has been cemented into the program’s psyche.
The defense has to be far, far better. The O does need a running game, and the turnovers have to stop, but North Dakota, Georgia Southern, Indiana, and Rutgers are coming up around a home date against Oklahoma.
This was bad, but it was just Week 0. It’ll take a while to sharpen up. Early in the season, it’s easier to line up and pound like Northwestern did late – the timing with the Husker passing game should improve.
1. Yeah, all of the attention is on Nebraska losing another close game – and Frost opening up the season with a painful defeat as a massive favorite – but give Northwestern credit for getting this done. The Wildcats failed to score more than 14 points in eight of the last nine games last season and only got past 24 points in a 35-6 win over Ohio.
Nebraska might have struggled defensively, but Northwestern came up with well over 500 yards, it was balanced, it was +2 in turnover margin, and it owned the clock. The 2021 glitch – at least for now – appears to be fixed.
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