McCallum's game-winner lifts Huskers over Wildcats
In a game between two teams absolutely desperate for a win to keep their seasons afloat, Nebraska’s home tilt vs. Northwestern once again went down to the wire as most expected.
Already playing without one of their best defensive linemen (Khalil Davis, suspension), the Huskers also lost quarterback Adrian Martinez and top receiver JD Spielman for the day to injury.
But at the end of it all, it was kicker Lane McCallum – a sophomore walk-on from Norfolk – who saved the day with a 24-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to give NU an enormous 13-10 victory.
McCallum got his chance after backup quarterback Noah Vedral came replaced Martinez in the fourth quarter and set up the final kick with a 32-yard completion to Wan’Dale Robinson with 41 seconds left.
Nebraska averaged just 4.9 yards per game and converted just six of 19 third downs, but it ended up making one more big play than the Wildcats when they had to the most.
A slow start on both sides finally got going when freshman Wan’Dale Robinson took a handoff off the right tackle on a third-and-eight for a 42-yard touchdown run for the game’s first score.
The next score wouldn’t be until Lane McCallum knocked in a 35-yard field goal into the wind with 8:24 left in the second quarter to push the lead to 10-0. That capped off a 10-play, 61-yard drive that ate up more than five minutes off the clock.
Northwestern quickly answered by returning the ensuing kickoff 50 yards down to the NU 45-yard line. That led to a 40-yard field goal by Charlie Kuhbander that barely got over the uprights, pulling the Wildcats back to within 10-3 with 5:15 left in the half.
That score would hold into halftime, as neither team eclipsed 150 total yards in a first half that featured nine punts on a combined 13 drives.
Nebraska quickly went three-and-out on its first series of the third quarter, but Northwestern wasted no time finally getting its offense rolling.
The Wildcats quickly covered 58 yards in six plays and tied the game up on a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Aidan Smith. Smith, who had just 13 carries for 37 yards coming into the game, rushed three times for 16 yards on that drive alone.
Needing a big play to regain some momentum, Robinson stepped up again on NU’s next drive by taking a quick shovel pass 49 yards down to the Northwestern 17-yard line. But the Huskers were unable to capitalize, however, as McCallum’s 29-yard field goal try bounced off the right upright.
The tie would hold onto into the fourth quarter, but not before Martinez was forced to leave the game with an apparent left knee injury on the final play of the third quarter. That led to Vedral taking over with just under 13 minutes left to play.
Two personal foul penalties on Nebraska’s defense moved Northwestern deep into NU territory, but this time it was the Wildcats who failed to take the lead on a missed field goal. Kuhbander shanked a 34-yard attempt wide right to leave the game locked at 10-10 with 8:25 left to play.
A chop block penalty and then a false start turned a first-and-10 into a second-and-25 from Northwestern’s own 10-yard line, and that was more than enough for the Blackshirts to get the ball back to the offense at the 50 with 3:08 remaining.
But the Huskers couldn’t do anything with the prime opportunity, going three-and-out and losing four yards before punting the ball back to Northwestern with 2:13 still on the clock.
Finally, with just over one minute to go, Nebraska forced the first turnover of the day when Lamar Jackson picked off Smith and returned it to midfield. Vedral connected with Robinson for a 32-yard gain to the Wildcat 16.
It eventually came down to a 24-yard field goal try from McCallum with just three seconds to play. After three straight timeouts by Nebraska and then two by Northwestern, the sophomore walk-on drilled the kick to seal the win it.
Robinson was the x-factor for the Huskers, as he rushed seven times for a team-high 44 yards and a touchdown and caught a game-high seven passes for 123 yards.
Nebraska will return to action next week when it travels to take on Minnesota for a 6:30 p.m. kick on either FS1 or BTN.