Miracle Hail Mary vs. Northwestern Saves Nebraska's Season, Bo Pelini's Job

Erin Sorensen@erinsorensenContributor INovember 3, 2013

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 2: Quarterback Ron Kellogg III #12 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers celebrates with wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp #1 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers after defeating the Northwestern Wildcats with a hail mary touchdown as time ran out at Memorial Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

It is a catch that will go down in Husker history.

As time expired, senior quarterback Ron Kellogg III threw a 49-yard Hail Mary toward the end zone. A Northwestern defender tipped the ball up and into the arms of redshirt freshman Jordan Westerkamp.

The Huskers won, 27-24, as time expired.

Players swarmed the field and celebrated Westerkamp's catch.

Kellogg became emotional midfield.

All of the emotions are to expected, too. According to Huskers.com, Westerkamp's catch is believed to be the first game-winning Hail Mary touchdown pass in Nebraska history.

However, it was more than just an impressive catch.

The miracle Hail Mary ultimately saved Nebraska's season. It also saved head coach Bo Pelini's job.

When Northwestern took a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter, Memorial Stadium grew restless. Fans expressed frustration with the defense. Many declared it the same Husker story but just a different game.

Midway through the third quarter, Nebraska managed to tie the game up.

The Blackshirts were finding their stride, despite struggles on the offensive side of the ball.

Fans were optimistic. It appeared that overtime may be in order, but the Huskers were still in the game.

That was until redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong threw an interception right into the arms of a Wildcat defender.

It was almost as if someone had let the wind out of Memorial Stadium's sails.

The Husker defense did its best to take a stand at the goal line. What could have been a touchdown resulted in only a field goal.

However, that goal-line stand left Nebraska with only 1:14 left in regulation.

Pelini has often made it clear, per ESPN.com, that if Nebraska needed to drive the field in the final two minutes, Kellogg would be the guy.

Nov 2, 2013; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. (4) and Taylor Martinez (left) celebrate after defeating the Northwestern Wildcats at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska won 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sport
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

That decision upset a few fans.

With Armstrong believed to be the go-to guy in senior Taylor Martinez's absence, Kellogg's presence didn't make much sense.

Kellogg proved Pelini's decision was the right one.

Prior to the Hail Mary pass, it was hard to see where Nebraska's season would go after losing to Northwestern.

With Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State still on the docket, many questioned if a loss to the Wildcats would mean the Huskers' season was over.

It was more than just Nebraska losing its control in the Big Ten Legends race. Many wondered whether or not this would be the end for Pelini.

Losing to Northwestern would have spiraled the Huskers' season out of control.

In 2012, wide receiver Kenny Bell said that beating the Wildcats saved Nebraska's season. “That would have been the end of the world, really,” Bell said, via The Daily Nebraskan.

One year later, that statement still rings true.

The Huskers still control their fate in the Big Ten. A trip to Indianapolis in December is also very much a possibility.

Beating Northwestern as time expired brought life back to the players and fans. Memorial Stadium became electric for one of the first times this season.

As for Pelini, his seat has cooled considerably as a result of this win.

Prior to Northwestern, many questioned if losing would be the end for the head coach. As that question slowly became more of a reality, it seemed that Pelini's fate definitely was on the line.

One catch turned a lot of that around.

Pelini walked off the field with his family after the game. Prior to disappearing into the tunnel, Pelini stopped briefly.

Nebraska fans were cheering and celebrating the head coach. He lifted his arm into the air and gave a fist pump.

It's been a long season so far for the Huskers and Pelini. Since UCLA, the head coach's job has been questioned every step of the way.

Pelini needed this feel-good win. While it won't bring every fan back on his side, that moment as he walked off the field changed a lot.

Nebraska's road to Indianapolis is no easier than it was before. However, Nebraska still remains in the race.

With it, Pelini also remains very much in charge of his team.

As head coach, Pelini does still have a big challenge in front of him. Going forward, losing will only make his seat hotter. However, this win helps considerably.

It's called a Hail Mary pass for a reason. Under the lights of Memorial Stadium, a 49-yard pass from Kellogg to Westerkamp held a lot more within it than just a win.

Had it been dropped, a lot would be different for the Huskers.

Instead, by the act of a Hail Mary, it just changed Nebraska's fate and a little bit of history.


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