football Edit

Huskers hold off Wildcats for 24-13 victory

Nebraska had a hard time staying out of its own way during the first two quarters of its Big Ten Conference opener at Northwestern on Saturday.

But after eventually settling down in the second half, the Huskers improved to a perfect 4-0 with a 24-13 victory.

Despite giving away two fumbles at the goal line in the first and second quarters, the Huskers regrouped and refocused to eventually racked up 556 yards of total offense and outscored the Wildcats (1-3, 0-1) 14-6 after halftime.

Senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong accounted for 378 yards of total offense (246 passing, 132 rushing) and one touchdown in the win, while senior running back Terrell Newby added 10 carries for 69 yards and a score.

The first half of the game was filled with missed opportunities, including two that kept potential touchdowns off the board.

The first came just three plays into the game when Newby broke a 49-yard run down the right sideline for what looked to be a sure score. However, as Newby dived for the goal line near the pylon, he lost control of the ball and fumbled out of the end zone for a touchback.

After Northwestern shanked a 27-yard field goal three drives later, the Huskers again had a golden opportunity for a touchdown when Armstrong found a wide-open senior tight end Cethan Carter on the first play of the second quarter.

Carter stumbled and fell at the 8-yard line, and NU ended up settling for a 23-yard field goal by junior Drew Brown with 13:40 left in the half.

It didn’t take long for Northwestern to come up with an answer, as four minutes later quarterback Caleb Thorson took a keeper around the right end and scampered 42 yards untouched for a score to put the Wildcats up 7-3.

Prior to the touchdown, Thorson had minus-2 rushing yards on the season and his longest run of the year was just 14 yards.

Later in the second, Nebraska had yet another prime chance to reach the end zone with a first-and-goal at the Northwestern 2-yard line. Sophomore running back Devine Ozigbo was stopped just before the goal line and coughed up the ball.

The fumble was recovered by the Wildcats in the end zone for another touchback with 3:24 left in the half.

The Huskers defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out, and this time the offense wasn’t going to be stopped. Armstrong connected with senior wide out Alonzo Moore for a 59-yard bomb down the right sideline that moved the ball to the Wildcat 4.

The very next play, Newby rushed around the right end, broke a tackle and twisted his way into the end zone for the touchdown with 1:41 to go before halftime.

Northwestern quickly drove the ball all the way down to the NU 26, but back-to-back sacks by senior defensive tackle Kevin Maurice - who had just 1.5 career sacks coming into the game - forced the Wildcats to attempt what appeared to be a 40-yard field goal.

But the Wildcats tried a fake and kicker Jack Mitchell’s desperation pass to holder Matt Micucci came up well short of the first down, sending the game into halftime with Nebraska holding a 10-7 advantage.

That also marked the first time the Huskers had led Northwestern at the half in the previous six meetings.

Northwestern got off to a strong start on its opening drive of the third quarter, but sophomore safety Aaron Williams ended the threat by picking off Thorson in the end zone.

A 35-yard pass from Armstrong to senior receiver Brandon Reilly got the ball to the Wildcat 4, and Armstrong found Carter in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal to push the lead up to 17-7.

Nebraska didn’t get to celebrate very long, though.

The Wildcats started their ensuing drive at midfield after an NU penalty and Thorson drove the Wildcats the rest of the way, hitting Austin Carr for a 24-yard touchdown pass over the middle. Mitchell missed the extra point, though, leaving the score 17-13.

After making his first catch of the night on the first play of the ensuing drive to extend his streak to 30 games with a reception, senior receiver Jordan Westerkamp took a reverse 10 yards round the left end to push the lead back up to 24-13.

Northwestern tried to mount a comeback late in the fourth quarter, but Thorson was picked off by Nebraska cornerback Joshua Kalu with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

The Huskers were able to run the clock out and move to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in Big Ten play.