The Blackshirts had their worst performance of the season against Ohio State last weekend, giving up a season-worst 48 points and 580 total yards.
However, as has been the case all season, the Huskers are moving on, even after such a disappointing loss.
“It’s tough,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. “But they’ve done a good job of trying to get ready for Northwestern, moving on, getting the new gameplan in, and starting to practice for the new team we’re playing.”
Junior linebacker Will Honas echoed Chinander’s claims, saying the team was “ready to bounce back.”
“We’re onto Northwestern,” he said. “They’re going to be a good team, they’re disciplined, they play hard, they played close with Wisconsin last week so it’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’re ready to hit it head on.”
The upcoming game is another meaningful one for the Huskers. Last year, Nebraska lost 34-31 in overtime despite holding a 10-point lead with under four minutes to go.
Honas didn’t play in the game, as he was out for the season with an injury, but the loss was still tough for him to experience.
“That last drive was just heartbreaking,” Honas said. “We’ve had some tough losses but I’d say that’s probably one of the toughest ones I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
“That last drive,” was a 99-yard touchdown drive by the Wildcats to tie the game up and send it to overtime where they won with a field goal.
The loss sent Nebraska to 0-6 for the first time in program history, in head coach Scott Frost’s first season as head coach.
Nearly a year later, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said the loss still hurts to think about.
“The sting is always there,” Fisher said. “There’s always plays you wish you could’ve had at the end of the game, after every game win or lose.”
Northwestern is a much different team than it was last year, as the Wildcats’ leading receiver and starting quarterback both graduated. They return their leading rusher, sophomore running back Isaiah Bowser, but freshman Drake Anderson seems to have taken over as the lead running back.
Anderson had a breakout game for Northwestern against UNLV in week two, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown. Through four games, he has totaled 305 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
The Blackshirts faced two of the best running backs in the Big Ten already in Illinois’ Reggie Corbin and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, and Anderson will be another test.
“He does a good job of being able to be patient and find the holes,” defensive line coach Tony Tuioti said. “They [Northwestern] do a good job with their gap scheme and he’s really patient in finding the open window.”
Despite Anderson’s success, the Wildcats have struggled offensively. They currently rank last in the Big Ten in yards per game, partly because of their quarterback situation.
Senior quarterback TJ Green was injured in Northwestern’s first game of the season and is out for the year. Since then, sophomore Hunter Johnson has taken over as the starter. Johnson has struggled so far, throwing just one touchdown and four interceptions through four games.
However, Johnson is also battling injury, and it is still uncertain whether he will start against the Huskers. If he isn’t ready to go, junior quarterback Aidan Smith will run the offense. Smith has seen snaps in Northwestern’s last two games but has also struggled, throwing one touchdown and three interceptions.
The Blackshirts aren’t worried about who comes out at quarterback for the Wildcats, as both players have similar styles.
“They may have a new wrinkle here or there but I think both quarterbacks skill-set wise aren’t that much different,” inside linebackers coach Barrett Ruud said. “...That won’t affect preparation too much.”
Northwestern is 1-3 so far this year after going 8-4 and winning the Big Ten West last season. Despite the Wildcats’ struggles, Nebraska won’t look down on Northwestern and is simply focused on getting the win.
“We’re coming off an L so we ain’t looking at nobody no certain type of way,” senior cornerback Lamar Jackson said. “We respecting them guys, we preparing for them guys [sic] and we plan on going out there and just playing our best football.”