After a hard-fought game, Nebraska secured a big 13-10 win over Northwestern. Some Huskers stepped up and made big plays to put the Huskers in position to come out on top, while others struggled. A win is a win, but there are still plenty of things to be learned.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Defense can make big plays when it counts
A year ago, Northwestern had a 99-yard drive with under two minutes left against Nebraska’s defense to score a touchdown and tie a game it would eventually win in overtime.
Tonight, it seemed like a clutch drive late in the game from the Wildcats was bound to happen again. All they needed to break a 10-10 tie and win the game was a field goal, and Northwestern drove up to the Nebraska 48-yard line with over a minute left.
Then, the Blackshirts broke through and made a play. Senior cornerback Lamar Jackson intercepted a pass from Northwestern junior quarterback Aidan Smith, setting up Nebraska’s game-winning drive.
Northwestern’s offense is significantly worse than it was a year ago, but the defensive effort is still impressive.
Besides the interception, Nebraska allowed just 10 points and forced two fumbles, although neither were recovered by the Huskers. The Wildcats began both scoring drives past their own 40-yard line and could not do much otherwise.
While this wasn’t necessarily the biggest test for the Blackshirts, it’s a sign that things are continuing to improve on that side of the ball.
Special teams finding a few answers
Nebraska’s kicking situation has been a mess so far this year, but tonight it showed that not all hope is lost.
Sophomore safety and kicker Lane McCallum took over as Nebraska’s starting placekicker, and he had his biggest moment today, knocking in the game-winning field goal from 24 yards out. McCallum made two field goals in the game, with his first coming midway through the second quarter.
Prior to today, the Huskers made just two of their six field goal attempts this season, having missed three straight dating back to the Northern Illinois game.
Senior punter Isaac Armstrong quietly had a strong showing as well, averaging 41.9 yards per punt. He pinned the Wildcats inside the 20-yard line on three occasions, while also having two punts of 50 or more yards. This helped Nebraska’s defense succeed, as Northwestern didn’t start a single drive in plus territory.
Not all went well—McCallum missed a field goal in the third quarter that would’ve put Nebraska up three much earlier, and the winning kick was dangerously low and close to being blocked.
The Huskers’ kicking situation isn’t solved yet, but a made field goal is a made field goal, and that’s all Nebraska needed today.
Wan’Dale Robinson is great—but the rest of the offense needs to step up
Despite having just 13 points, there were plenty of bright spots for Nebraska’s offense. They didn’t turn the ball over once for the first time all season, and freshman all-purpose back Wan’Dale Robinson had a big game.
Robinson accounted for 167 of Nebraska’s 317 total yards and scored the Huskers’ only touchdown. He also made one of the biggest plays of the game, making a 32-yard catch to put the Huskers in field goal range.
However, the rest of the offense was inconsistent. Outside of Robinson’s seven rushes for 44 yards, the Huskers gained 2.7 yards per carry. No other Nebraska receiver had over two receptions or 25 yards, while Robinson had seven catches for 123 yards.
The Huskers are battling the injury bug as well. Sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez and junior wideout JD Spielman both exited the game with injuries. Head coach Scott Frost said postgame that neither injury was “too serious,” but if either are unable to go against Minnesota it will be a significant blow to Nebraska’s offense.
On top of all that, sophomore running back Maurice Washington was suspended for the first half because of “internal things and rules,” according to Frost.
Last year, Nebraska’s offense was clearly the Huskers’ strength and consistently had explosive performances. As of now, there seem to be more questions than answers, and more Huskers will need to step up to get the Nebraska offense back on track.