Football: After offensive success against Ohio, Northwestern prepares for test of Nebraska’s defense

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Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Offensive tackle Peter Skoronski readies for the snap. Northwestern’s offense is preparing to face Nebraska’s defense, one of the best in the country, on Saturday.

Lawrence Price, Assistant Sports Editor


Football


Northwestern’s offense hit on all cylinders last Saturday against Ohio.

The running backs rushed for 373 yards and averaged 7.3 yards per carry, reaching the end zone four times. Outside of graduate transfer running back Andrew Clair’s 32-yard run in the second quarter and first-year running back Anthony Tyus III’s first touchdown of the season in the fourth, two of the scores came from sophomore running back Evan Hull. A 90-yard house call in the first quarter set the tone for the Minnesotan’s day. He finished the game with 216 rushing yards and was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. 

After finishing with 461 yards — their most this season — the Wildcats (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) are heading to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln to try to produce a similar result against Nebraska (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) and one of the conference’s best defenses. 

“They throw a lot at you, so we got to be great in our preparation and our intensity this week and just go and execute and be physical because you know they are going to bring it,” sophomore left tackle Peter Skoronski said. “There’s not a lot of teams that can do what they do defensively against a team like Michigan State and Oklahoma two weeks ago.”

The Cornhuskers lost to the No. 3 Sooners by one touchdown, while taking the No. 20 Spartans to overtime this past week.

Nebraska held Michigan State to no first downs in the second half and silenced a potent run game to just 71 yards the entire game.

“It was one of the most dominant defensive performances that I have seen in the Big Ten in a long time,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We got our hands full, but we will put together a great plan and hopefully we will have a great week.”

Meanwhile, NU’s defense struggled to stop Michigan State’s offense, especially its run game. The Cats gave up 511 total yards, with 326 of them coming on the ground.  

“(The Cornhuskers) are a really experienced defense and they fly around and love to be physical, so we just got to match that physicality,” senior right tackle Ethan Wiederkehr said. “We got to finish plays and we just got to do our thing, nothing different than we have been doing all year.”

Nebraska’s solid defensive performances over the past few weeks has the Cornhuskers ranked fourth in the Big Ten for rushing touchdowns (three) and sixth for passing yards per game (188.6). However the Cornhuskers have looked subpar in other areas — giving up the second-most rushing yards (696) and average per rush (4.0) in the conference.

Outside of last week in East Lansing, Nebraska’s struggle to allow rushing yards provides an opening for NU, as the Cats’ flex the fourth-most rushing yards in the Big Ten. By taking advantage of the Cornhuskers’ weaknesses, NU can minimize the effectiveness of the defense thrown at them from its Big Ten West rival. 

“It’s really going to take us using our fundamentals and technique to really get a good push on these guys and execute the game plan,” sophomore left guard Josh Priebe said. 

The Cornhuskers also provide a chance for the Cats to prove their ability to fend off sound defensive units, and shine light on what may come later in the season, with a Big Ten West championship potentially on the horizon. Four of the teams left on NU’s schedule are ranked in the top five of the Big Ten for surrendering the least amount of points per game.

“We left a lot of points on the board against Ohio, and you can’t do that, especially away at

Nebraska,” Wiederkehr said. “We’ve got to finish drives this game and execute at the highest level.”

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