The week surrounding the Nebraska football program was upbeat following a convincing win on the road against Minnesota last week. But from the start of Nebraska’s game Saturday at Memorial Stadium against Northwestern, it felt like the Huskers weren’t the same team.
Nebraska (3-5, 1-3) fell for the fifth time this season with a 30-28 defeat to Northwestern. All five losses have come by a combined 13 points, but the sting isn’t lessened by that fact.
“That’s a really disappointing game for us,” Head Coach Mike Riley said to start his postgame press conference. “All those things that we talke about and thought were making some strides in some ways like balance, run/pass ratio, all that stuff didn’t look too good today.”
Nebraska’s offense had numerous opportunities in the first half to get going, with great field position on four of the first six drives. But Nebraska was only able to score three points on those possessions, while one turned into an interception return for a touchdown for Northwestern.
“You look back and go ‘Oh man, this would’ve changed the game,'” said wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. “It is what it is. The game’s over, you can’t do anything about it now but bet better.”
Northwestern’s defense held Nebraska’s rushing offense in check throughout the game, allowing only 82 yards on 38 attempts. The Huskers had some success through the air. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong threw for 291 yards and one touchdown, but completed only 50 percent of his pass attempts.
“We couldn’t find a rhythm,” said Armstrong. “We put outselves in tough situations at certain times of the game and that stopped us from executing.”
Coach Riley laid some of those incompletions on the wide receivers. “We dropped a number of balls that really could’ve helped him out. When you’re doing that for the quarterback, then the rhythm stuff (goes away).”
Northwestern’s offense was aided by two long runs from quarterback Clayton Thorson. Outside of his 68 and 49 yard runs in the first half, the Wildcats only mustered 11 yards of offense.
“We did some good things on defense,” said defensive end Jack Gangwish. “But it wasn’t any one thing or any one person’s fault, we just didn’t do good enough.”
The Huskers were able to force a safety, after punter Sam Foltz pinned Northwestern at their own four yard line.
But the Wildcat
offense came alive at critical moments in the second half. After Nebraska drove 75 yards to take the lead early in the third quarter, Northwestern responded immediately with a 61 yard drive that ended with the field goal to regain the lead. Nebraska again took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a Drew Brown field goal, but Northwestern responded with a 77 yard touchdown drive.
Nebraska missed an opportunity to tie the game with 4:23 left, failing on a two point conversion attempt. Northwestern was able to run out the clock to win the game.
“Football is a crazy game,” said Jordan Westerkamp. “We’ll stay together, we’ll keep this thing going, we’ll stay positive, we’ll get back and have a great week at practice and get ready for Purdue.”