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Wildcats steal 34-31 overtime win over Nebraska

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Associated Press

EVANSTON, Ill. – Nebraska came 12 seconds from finally earning the first victory of the Scott Frost era.

Instead, the Huskers blew a 10-point lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and fell to Northwestern 34-31 in overtime.

Running back Devine Ozigbo turned in a career performance with 22 carries fo 159 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Adrian Martinez continued his rapid ascension with more than total yards of offense.

The defense even came up with some clutch stops, including forcing a season-high two takeaways.

But none of it mattered in the end, as the Wildcats kicked a 37-yard field goal in overtime to drop Nebraska to its worst start in program history at 0-6 and hand it its nation-leading 10th straight loss going back to last season.

After five straight slow starts, Nebraska got rolling right out of the gates with a 33-yard rush by Ozigbo followed by a 42-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to J.D. Spielman.

The Blackshirts also came out strong to shut the Wildcats out in the opening quarter, giving NU its first first-quarter lead of the season and its first since a win over Purdue last season.

That score held until Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson completed 4-of-6 passes on a nine-play, 80-yard drive and capped it off with a 21-yard touchdown toss to Flynn Nagel to tie it up with 7:41 left in the half.

The Wildcats then took all of the momentum when Trae Williams came through untouched on a blitz and smacked Martinez for a sack/fumble that was picked up by Earnest Brown and returned 10 yards for a touchdown.

Desperately needing to get something going on offense, the Huskers responded with an impressive eight-play, 83-yard drive finished off with a 12-yard touchdown run by Ozigbo just 42 seconds before halftime.

Rather than going into the locker room tied up, though, Pickering bounced the ensuing extra point off the right upright to leave NU trailing 14-13.

Nebraska ended up out-gaining Northwestern by 100 total yards in the first half, but three penalties and one costly turnover left the Huskers behind on the scoreboard once again.

Northwestern’s offense got moving on its opening drive of the third quarter, but the Blackshirts came up with their biggest play yet when Antonio Reed picked off a long Thorson pass at the NU three-yard line.

With some impressive throws and runs by Martinez, Ozigbo finished off a 15-play, 97-yard drive that ate up 5:43 with his second touchdown run of the day from one yard out, putting Nebraska up 20-14.

After a quick three-and-out by Northwestern, NU had a chance to add to its lead after marching down to the Wildcat 29. But the turnover bug hit again when Martinez was picked off by J.R. Pace in the end zone.

That led to a 42-yard field goal attempt from walk-on kicker Drew Luckenbaugh that never had a chance and missed badly wide left.

On the first play of the following drive, Ozigbo broke loose for a 37-yard scamper down to the Northwestern 39. Ozigbo picked up 25 more yards on the next two plays, and freshman Maurice Washington finished it off with his first-career touchdown from three yards out.

Martinez dove into the end zone for the two-point conversion to put the Huskers up 28-14 with 13:40 left in the game, their largest lead of the season.

Just when it seemed like Nebraska was about to seal the deal, though, Northwestern came firing right back with a 61-yard touchdown pass from Thorson to Nagel that pulled it with 28-21 with 12:31 still on the clock.

The Wildcats got the ball back and moved to midfield, but the Blackshirts came up with another huge turnover when safety Tre Neal picked off Thorson and returned it to the Northwestern 36.

Nebraska needed Washington to pick up a fumbled snap and run to convert a third down, but it still made it a two-score game again when Pickering came through with a 34-yard field goal to make it 31-21 with 5:41 remaining.

A fourth-and-long conversion led to a Northwestern field goal that cut the lead to 31-24 with 2:27 left. The Huskers recovered the onside kick, and after three stuffed runs that burned Northwestern’s three timeouts, Isaac Armstrong pinned the Wildcats with a punt at the one-yard line.

Carlos Davis was called for a roughing the passer penalty to kickstart the Wildcat drive, and Thorson hit Nagel again for a 32-yard pass to the NU 32.

Thorson completed another pass to the Nebraska 5 and clocked it with 17 seconds left. The next play, Thorson found JJ Jefferson for a touchdown pass to tie the game on a 99-yard scoring drive.

Martinez was intercepted in the end zone on a fourth-down heave on NU’s overtime possession, and Northwestern put the game away with a 37-yard field goal.