football Edit

Huskers run over Northern Illinois for 44-8 victory

With a full moon on the night after Friday the 13th, Nebraska’s 44-8 win over Northern Illinois was about as strange as could be.

While the Huskers were in control the game throughout, they did so in a game that featured five blocked kicks, two quarterback quick punts, and a safety before all was said and done.

As wild as things got at times, NU still saw another dominant defensive performance and got its offense going to the tune of a 525-350 advantage in total yards.

Dedrick Mills led the way with 11 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown, making him the first player to eclipse 100 yards rushing against Northern Illinois in 18 games.

Running back Dedrick Mills had his best game as a Husker with 11 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown vs. Northern Illinois on Saturday night.
Running back Dedrick Mills had his best game as a Husker with 11 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown vs. Northern Illinois on Saturday night. (Associated Press)

A 41-yard completion to JD Spielman set up a 36-yard field goal by Isaac Armstrong for the game’s first points, but it still felt like a missed opportunity after Nebraska marched to the NIU 19-yard line on the opening possession.

The Huskers were primed to add to that lead on their next drive after a 61-yard rush by Mills, but the junior running back coughed up the football on the very next play to give the Huskies the ball at the NU 10.

Just as they’ve done all year, though, Nebraska’s defense and special teams stepped up again. The Blackshirts got the stop, and then Isaiah Stalbird blocked the ensuing punt, and Austin Allen recovered at the Northern Illinois’ 21.

One play later, Maurice Washington darted his way around the right end for a 21-yard touchdown run to put the Huskers up 10-0 with 6:22 left in the first quarter.

The Huskies tried to get cute after being forced to punt on the next drive with a fake punt run by punter Matt Ference. Allen came up with another key special teams play by tackling Ference a yard short of the first down.

Nebraska’s offense again couldn’t capitalize, and this time Armstrong’s 37-yard kick was blocked and returned by NIU to midfield.

The defense continued to dominate, though, and this time the offense took advantage again when Washington burst past the NIU defense down the left sideline and took it 60 yards for a touchdown to make it 16-0 (the PAT was blocked) early in the second quarter.

Northern Illinois finally got the board with a 45-yard field goal by John Richardson to cut the lead to 16-3 with 7:58 to go in the half. Even worse, NU starting safety Cam Taylor left the game with an apparent shoulder injury during the drive.

The Huskies spotted Nebraska the ball at the 50 after a failed onside kick try bounced out of bounds. Following a 26-yard third-down pass to Mike Williams, Mills broke free for a 24-yard touchdown rush to push the advantage back up to 23-3.

Stalbird got through again for his second blocked punt of the night on the ensuing series, but Nebraska’s special teams ended up spoiling the opportunity when another Armstrong field goal was blocked from 32 yards out.

The special teams sideshow continued a drive later when NIU quarterback Ross Bowers punted on a fourth down and pinned NU at its four-yard line. A play later, Washington was dropped in the end zone on a swing pass for a safety, making it 23-5 with 1:49 to go in the half.

The Huskers would get the last laugh before halftime, however, as quarterback Adrian Martinez engineered an impressive five-play, 87-yard drive capped by a 27-yard touchdown to Kanawai Noa with only five seconds left on the clock.

When the wild first half finally came to an end, Nebraska had racked up 369 yards of total offense and averaged 11.2 yards per play. On the other side, the Blackshirts stymied NIU for just 144 total yards and 3.3 ypp.

Northern Illinois opened the third quarter by converting a fourth-and-eight with a 28-yard completion to move deep into NU territory. The Huskies had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Richardson to pull within 30-8.

Nebraska answered with a long drive of its own and reached the end zone again on a 10-yard touchdown run by Martinez. Not only did that push the lead to 37-8 going into the fourth quarter, it also marked the first time NU had won a third quarter this season (7-3).

Northern Illinois looked ready to score again when it had second-and-goal from the two, but the Blackshirts stepped up with three straight stops and got the ball back on a turnover on downs.

The Huskers’ backups would carry the load the rest of the way, and No. 2 quarterback Noah Vedral punched in a four-yard touchdown run with 4:04 remaining to put a bow on the victory.

Martinez completed 16-of-27 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 44 yards and a score.

Nebraska will hit the road next week for its Big Ten Conference opener at Illinois on Saturday night, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. CT on BTN.