Rapid Recap: Nebraska 13, Northwestern 10


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Aidan Smith runs the ball. The junior quarterback started the game for the first time in his career.

Andrew Golden, Sports Editor


LINCOLN, Neb. — After starting off two of its last three seasons 1-3, Northwestern was able to salvage their season with a victory to turn the momentum in the right direction. Saturday’s matchup against Nebraska present the Wildcats with an opportunity to do the same — but NU (1-4, 0-3 Big Ten) couldn’t deliver.

Junior quarterback Aidan Smith started for the first time and the Wildcats started the game off slow, with their first four possessions ending on their side of the field. On the other hand, the Huskers were able to score 10 points on their first four possessions and seize momentum.

But after a Lane McCallum field goal gave the Huskers a 10-0 lead, senior wide receiver Riley Lees took the ensuing kickoff to the Nebraska 45-yard line. NU didn’t score a touchdown on that drive, settling for a 40-yard field goal from Charlie Kuhbander, but momentum swung in the Cats’ favor.

The Cornhuskers didn’t score after their field goal with 8:24 remaining in the second half, as NU’s defense played stellar defense for most of the game. Nebraska’s next eight possessions resulted in six punts and a missed field goal. The Cats got the ball back with 10:52 remaining at their own 40-yard line and two personal foul penalties by the Cornhuskers gave NU an opportunity to take the lead. But Charlie Kuhbander missed a 34-yard field goal and the score remained tied.

Both teams traded possessions in the fourth, but, with the Cats driving down the field with just over a minute remaining, Smith threw an interception and put Nebraska at NU’s 49. The Cornhuskers drove down the field to the Cats’ seven-yard line and McCallum redeemed himself with a game-winning field goal.

1. Aidan Smith gets his first start in a hostile environment. Sophomore quarterback Hunter Johnson’s health had been a question all week after the game against Wisconsin. Johnson got hit and taken out in the third quarter, tried to make a return but then came up gimpy after a fourth-quarter run, ending his day. The injuries were substantial enough for junior quarterback Aidan Smith to get his first career start on Saturday.

His first start opened as poorly as it could’ve — a delay of game to push the Cats farther back to begin the game. But the former backup quarterback bounced back and looked calm amid the raucous Cornhusker crowd for the most part In the first quarter, he completed all four of his passes and picked up two first downs, one on the ground and one through the air. He finished 17-for-28 with 116 yards, 0 TDs and a crucial interception that allowed Nebraska to drive down the field and win the game.

2. The Wildcats set the tone to open the second half with their running game. NU kicked off the second half with a bang, leaning on its running game to tie the game. The Cornhuskers started with the ball in the second half and went backwards, with three players for negative yards. When the offense got the ball back, the team stuck with Drake Anderson, who has been efficient all season for the Cats in the second half.

Starting from its own 42, NU gave the ball to the freshman running back, who ran for 20 yards to the Nebraska 38 on just two plays. During the Cats seven-play drive, NU only ran one pass play, an Aidan Smith throw that was called for defensive pass interference and set NU up at the two-yard line. Smith ran the ball in for a touchdown on the next play to knot the score at 10. After running for just 50 yards in the first half, NU ran for 46 yards on its first possession of the second.

3. Wildcats defense continues to impress on the road. The theme for the Cats this season has been impressive defense play, while the offense struggled. This was the case again on Saturday, but NU arguably put together its most outstanding defensive performance to date. While Nebraska finished the game with 319 yards of offense, the Cornhuskers were stifled for the majority of the second half and only reached the Cats’ territory once.

While Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez was hurt in the fourth quarter, NU still allowed the Cornhuskers to gain just 25 yards of total offense until the final drive of the game. Earlier in the season, the Cats struggled to make open field tackles, but Saturday was a different story, as NU flew to Nebraska ball carriers and wide receivers. The Cats finished with 9 tackles for loss in the ball game.

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