Coming off a three-interception game against Ohio State, sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez desperately needed a bounce back game against the Wildcats. Instead, he played a thoroughly average game, looking uncertain at times but didn’t turn the ball over, a key to the team’s victory.
After going down with a knee injury to end the third quarter, sophomore quarterback Noah Vedral managed to produce a game-winning drive. He wasn’t effective either, completing 2-5 passes for 41 yards as he added another 33 yards on the ground. Neither Martinez nor Vedral had stellar days, but they did enough to secure the victory.
Running back: C
Just as the Huskers struggled to consistently throw the ball, the team’s rushing attack looked poor at times. Sophomore Maurice Washington sat out the entire first half as a coach’s decision, and he earned -1 yards on his six touches in the second half.
Meanwhile, junior Dedrick Mills couldn’t do much with his inside carries, picking up 26 yards on 10 touches. Nebraska had its most diverse backfield of the season, with senior Wyatt Mazour and freshman Rahmir Johnson also checking in, but it was a middling day for the ground game.
Wan’Dale Robinson: A+
Robinson accounted for over 50 percent of Nebraska’s offense on Saturday, as he scored the team’s only touchdown and made a crucial catch late in the fourth quarter. For that, the hybrid running back/wide receiver deserves his own category.
The true freshman led the team in rushing, as he took seven carries for 44 yards, although most of that total came on his electric 42-yard touchdown rush in the first quarter. Robinson dominated in the passing game, collecting seven receptions for 123 yards as no other Husker caught more than two balls.
He took a shovel pass 49 yards in the third quarter, setting up Nebraska for a field goal attempt which glanced off the right upright. Robinson also caught the only pass on Nebraska’s game-winning drive, as his 32-yard reception put the Huskers in field goal range.
On a night where not much else went right on offense, Robinson was the team’s shining star.
Wide Receiver: C-
With Robinson collecting most of the passing game’s targets, it was a subdued effort from the rest of Nebraska’s receiving corps. Junior JD Spielman caught just two passes for 19 yards and was forced out of the game due to injury. Behind him, senior Kanawai Noa also had two catches, adding 13 yards. Senior Mike Williams rounded out the group with one catch for five yards, as wide receivers continue to be an area where Nebraska lacks depth.
Offensive line/tight end: B
Nebraska’s offensive line did its job for the most part, allowing just one sack all night long. Neither Martinez nor Vedral faced much pressure from the Wildcat rush, and the line helped open holes for Nebraska’s big plays, including a crucial block from junior right tackle Matt Farniok on Robinson’s touchdown run.
However, freshman center Cameron Jurgens continued to struggle with consistency on his snaps, and the offensive line had a couple false start penalties as a whole.
At tight end, both junior Jack Stoll and sophomore Austin Allen caught one pass apiece in solid efforts.
Defensive line: B-
The defensive line was impenetrable against the run in the first quarter, allowing just 16 yards on 10 carries. As the game wore on, Northwestern’s rushing attack found increasing success, particularly on designed quarterback runs. Quarterback Aidan Smith finished the game with 64 yards and a score on the ground, as the Wildcats ran for 157 yards on 41 carries in total. There wasn’t much of a pass rushing effort either, as Nebraska had one sack on the day.
Nebraska’s linebacking corps had a very busy day, especially on the interior. Inside linebackers Mohamed Barry and Collin Miller had eight tackles each and popped up all over the field to make stops. Meanwhile, sophomore outside linebacker Caleb Tannor had five tackles and contributed to the team’s only sack. Additionally, junior JoJo Domann was all over the field as usual, making seven tackles and breaking up one pass.
The Husker secondary held Northwestern’s passing game in check all night long and came up big when it mattered. Sophomore Cam Taylor-Britt forced a fumble in the third quarter, and while Nebraska didn’t recover it, it was another big moment for the hard-hitting safety, who added five tackles on the day. Senior Lamar Jackson made the biggest play of the game late in the fourth quarter, as he intercepted a pass to set up Nebraska for the game-winning drive.
Special teams: B
It was a mixed bag for Nebraska’s special teams unit, as the Huskers continued to struggle in key areas. Sophomore kicker Lane McCallum connected on a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter but missed a 29-yard attempt late in the third. Nebraska also allowed 45-yard kick return which set Northwestern up for its first points of the game and had a big block in the back penalty on special teams.
At the end of the day, McCallum did what he needed to do, and secured the victory for Nebraska on a 24-yard chip shot which was nearly blocked. It wasn’t pretty, but Nebraska’s special teams helped get the job done.