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Rapid Recap: Northwestern 34, Nebraska 31 (Overtime)

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Rapid Recap: Northwestern 34, Nebraska 31 (Overtime)

Sophomore defensive end Earnest Brown jogs into the end zone after recovering a fumble in the second quarter.

Sophomore defensive end Earnest Brown jogs into the end zone after recovering a fumble in the second quarter.

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore defensive end Earnest Brown jogs into the end zone after recovering a fumble in the second quarter.

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore defensive end Earnest Brown jogs into the end zone after recovering a fumble in the second quarter.

Jonah Dylan, Managing Editor

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Football


Well, Northwestern won.

The Wildcats (3-3, 3-1 Big Ten) trailed for much of the second half against lowly Nebraska (0-6, 0-4) in an action-packed game at Ryan Field, but Clayton Thorson led a season-defining 99-yard drive in the final two minutes to force overtime, then Drew Luckenbaugh connected on a 37-yard field goal to give the Cats the a 34-31 victory.

It wasn’t easy for NU. Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo had his way with the NU defense all afternoon, finishing with 22 carries for 161 yards. Clayton Thorson completed 41-of-64 passes for 455 yards and three touchdowns, but two interceptions proved costly.

The Cornhuskers got off to a quick start right out of the gates, needing only four plays to go the length of the field and take a 7-0 lead on a 41-yard JD Spielman catch and run. The Cats fought back and took a second-quarter lead after Earnest Brown returned a fumble 10 yards for a touchdown, but a long drive from Nebraska pulled the Cornhuskers within a single point at halftime.

The visitors dominated the third quarter, but the Cats would not go away quietly. Thorson found senior receiver Flynn Nagel for a very quick 61 yard touchdown to bring NU back within one score, then found JJ Jefferson with 12 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

Takeaways

1. The Cardiac Cats are back. It really looked like NU was going to lose at home to a winless Nebraska team. But after going down by 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Cats fought back to stun the Cornhuskers and keep their Big Ten West hopes alive. Thorson was simply magnificent when his team needed him most. The fourth quarter was a striking example of how good this NU team can be when it plays at a high level. After spending most of the afternoon playing down to the level of a subpar opponent, the Cats figured it out and avoided what would have been a devastating loss with an overtime win against the Cornhuskers for the second straight year.

2. NU couldn’t stop the run. The Cats never found an answer for Nebraska’s read-option attack. Quarterback Adrian Martinez and running back Devine Ozigbo repeatedly gashed the Cats on the ground, and missed tackles plagued the Cats throughout the day. Ozigbo’s shiftiness gave NU defenders fits all day, and Martinez powered through the interior on repeated occasions. If Nebraska’s success on option plays feels familiar, that’s because it is: Last time these two teams met in Evanston, Tommy Armstrong gashed the Cats for 132 yards on the ground.

3. Flynn Nagel has emerged as Clayton Thorson’s favorite target. The senior receiver was putting together a solid season coming into Saturday, but he broke out in a major way with 12 catches for a career high 220 yards and two touchdowns. Thorson looked for Nagel time and time again on third and fourth down and he delivered with a huge performance. NU has relied on a plethora of receiving options through the beginning of the season, but Saturday cemented Nagel’s spot as Thorson’s top target.

Email: jonahdylan2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @thejonahdylan

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