Nebraska Football vs. Indiana Photo No. 25

Nebraska’s Casey Thompson (11) runs with the ball during the Homecoming game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Another Big Ten game brought another one-score contest for Nebraska football. After falling behind 13-0, the Huskers were able to bounce back and finally sneak off with a close win. 

Here are four takeaways and a question from the game:

A struggling offense leads to very few points

The biggest point of struggle on the night for Nebraska was its offense. Though it has had its issues throughout the season, tonight's game was arguably the worst it's been. The Huskers were held scoreless in the first half with just 134 total yards of offense. 

The second half tilted much more in Nebraska’s favor, but it wasn’t spectacular either. The 170 total yards and two touchdown passes in the second half weren’t solely won by the Huskers’ offense. Junior quarterback Casey Thompson finished the night 24-of-36 passing with 232 yards and two touchdown passes, but he also had two interceptions in another inconsistent performance. 

It wasn’t entirely on him though, receivers at times seemed out of place and had numerous dropped passes that would’ve continued drives. Thompson was only sacked once, though that was most likely due to Rutgers focusing on stopping the run more often than not. He was also hit a number of times. The running game proved abysmal, gaining just 72 yards

While it was reminiscent of the team’s blowout loss to Oklahoma, seeing how the Sooner defense gave up 96 points in its last two games, Nebraska hasn’t exactly squared off against unstoppable defenses. 

Rutgers was picked apart by Ohio State in its 49-10 loss last week, so it's not like Nebraska didn’t have film to work off of. Even in the Huskers’ 35-21 win over Indiana, there were moments where things looked bleak. 

Although Nebraska managed a pair of touchdowns on Friday, both of them were arguably due to penalties and its own defense helping out. Ever since its 42-point performance against Georgia Southern, Nebraska’s offense hasn’t really found its groove and with six more conference games left, it needs to find it sooner rather than later. 

Nebraska capitalizes off Rutgers’ penalties

As mentioned above, penalties gave Nebraska a multitude of breaks in this game. On the Huskers’ first touchdown drive, which spanned 70-yards, 25 of those came from a pair of Rutgers penalties. Those were just two of nine on the night for the Scarlet Knights, adding up to 97 total yards lost. 

Nearly every single penalty Rutgers had come at crucial moments in the game. A possible touchdown for the Scarlet Knights was scrubbed due to a holding penalty, a few big plays came back due to a penalty. Even Nebraska running out the clock at the end of the game was made possible due to an unnecessary roughness penalty from Rutgers. 

So while the Huskers did win the game, it's safe to say that the Scarlet Knights shooting themselves in the foot played a part. 

The Husker defense stepped up

Though the Scarlet Knights’ penalties gave Nebraska a number of breaks, it was the defense that played a big part in the Huskers' remaining in the fight. After giving up a touchdown on its first drive, and a couple of field goals later, the Huskers stepped up defensively to prevent Rutgers from running away with the game.

The Scarlet Knights’ 13 first-half points were all they managed as the Nebraska defense played mostly lights out. In the second half, the Huskers held Rutgers to just 85 total yards on offense. Not only that, but the Blackshirts gave Nebraska’s offense numerous opportunities to score a touchdown. 

The Huskers forced three interceptions, one of which set up the go-ahead touchdown. After struggling mightily through the first four games of the season, Nebraska’s defense has held its past two opponents to just 34 points, all of which came in the first half of each game. 

If the Husker offense can find a way to break out of its funk, it looks to potentially have a strong pairing with its newly recharged defense. 

Nebraska finally overcomes the close fourth-quarter collapse

The last time Nebraska won a game decided by three points or less was its 13-10 victory over Northwestern in 2019. While its win over Indiana came after heading into the fourth quarter tied at 21, Nebraska trailed entering the final quarter against Rutgers. 

After Nebraska’s defense turned the ball over inside Rutgers’ 30-yard line, the Huskers got the go-ahead touchdown. However, nearly nine minutes remained in the game, and Nebraska needed to stop the Scarlet Knights from scoring any points.

Fortunately for the Huskers, they did. Multiple stops by the defense, combined with the offense draining five minutes off the clock, prevented Rutgers from scoring and finally gave Nebraska that coveted close fourth-quarter victory. 

How many more wins can Nebraska get this season?

With its second straight win, Nebraska is now 3-3 on the season, the exact same record it had last year at this point. Last year’s team ended up losing six straight, but the question remains if the Huskers can win again this season.

While neither this win nor last week's win were pretty, Nebraska flashed signs of a team that can finish out games, something last year’s team struggled with mightily.

sports@dailynebraskan.com