Nebraska stumbled its way to a mistake-filled one-point victory over Northwestern Saturday, barely avenging its home loss a year ago. Despite the miscues and often sloppy play, the Cornhuskers’ win should still give hope and maybe even some much-needed optimism for Husker Nation.
From the outset, Nebraska’s mistakes were numerous and momentous. Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell muffed consecutive punts, Kyler Reed failed to secure the ball after a catch and Daimion Stafford committed a crucial personal foul that negated a special teams takeaway.
There were also a litany of less noticeable miscues that hurt the Huskers as Quincy Enunwa dropped a pass that would have put Nebraska in the red zone, Will Compton vacated the middle of the field to allow Venric Mark to scamper 80 yards for a touchdown and Brett Maher shanked a few punts including one for 16 yards.
All of these individual mistakes culminated in a 12-point deficit with eight-and-a-half minutes left. Lucky for the Huskers, Taylor Martinez then took over and, with the help of a couple defensive stops, engineered a come-from-behind victory to preserve Nebraska’s Big Ten title hopes.
Although the outcome was right, this game was not what the Nebraska faithful desired or expected. Nebraska had two weeks to prepare, two weeks to stew over its embarrassing loss in Columbus, two weeks to remember the upset at the hands of the Wildcats a year ago. They should have been ripe for a statement win by the angry team that Bo Pelini wanted to see. But what they got was an uninspiring close victory.
Yet if Nebraska fans can look past the aforementioned errors, there are many positives to take away from this game. Because outside of a few key mistakes, the Cornhuskers dominated Northwestern on both offense and defense.
While the turnovers and other mistakes are hard to ignore, doing so reveals Nebraska’s total yards surpassing Northwestern’s by 242. Nebraska also held the ball for two-and-a-half more minutes than Northwestern, compiled 12 more first downs and held the Wildcats to only 301 yards, 80 of which came on a single play.
Despite the obvious importance of Nebraska’s miscues, the Huskers should still take pride in their otherwise dominating performance over Northwestern. Truth be told, this one-point victory could have easily been a three-touchdown win.
In a game that seemed to be a perfect storm against the Big Red (on the road, against a spread offense with a dual threat quarterback), Nebraska proved it is still able to dominate a contender.
The Huskers will have to eliminate such mistakes if they hope to make a legitimate run for the conference title, but they proved Saturday that they can be a very dangerous team in the Legends division.
While definitely benefiting from a strong showing of Nebraska fans in Evanston and Pat Fitzgerald’s inexplicable decision to play Trevor Siemian at quarterback over the more mobile Kain Colter for much of the game, the Huskers dominated a conference contender and affirmed their place in the Rose Bowl discussion.