Football: Northwestern falls 56-7 to Nebraska on the road


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Brandon Joseph and Chris Bergin stand on the Memorial Stadium field. Northwestern’s defense gave up 56 points to Nebraska.

Lawrence Price, Assistant Sports Editor

LINCOLN, NE – Night games haven’t been kind to Northwestern this season.

With 34,248 fans at Ryan Field,the Wildcats were ready for the beginning of a new season after an impressive 2020 campaign. However, the Wildcats’ special night was stifled by Michigan State’s rushing attack that finished the game with 326 yards on the ground and helped take a victory back to East Lansing.

Four weeks later in Memorial Stadium, the Cats returned under the lights with 87,364 fans in attendance. Once again, the Wildcats faced adversity.

NU (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) struggled to find momentum on both sides of the ball, suffering its second conference loss of the season — a 56-7 rout at the hands of Nebraska (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten). The contest marked the most points the Cats have surrendered since giving up 70 to Wisconsin in 2010.

“I am the guy that’s responsible for the way we play,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I’ve got great confidence in our defense staff and our defensive players, and we have just got to get them going.”

The electricity booming in Lincoln began on the first play of the game. Quarterback Adrian Martinez found wide receiver Samori Toure deep across the middle for a 70-yard reception, leading to a Nebraska score 50 seconds of the game.

Unlike the Cornhuskers, the Wildcats first drive was filled with a penalty, a completed pass for negative yards and a third down sack to end the offense’s momentum. Nebraska followed this up with a 64-yard run by Jacquez Yant, leading Martinez’s second score of the game.

Nebraska continued to apply pressure in the first quarter on both sides of the ball. Stopping NU’s offense once again, Martinez and the Cornhuskers picked up another rushing touchdown, his third of the night, before the Cats’ found the end zone for the first time. The unit marched down the field in seven plays for 82 yards, highlighted by back-to-back receptions from graduate wideout Stephon Robinson Jr. for 32 yards and a 28-yarder to put them on the scoreboard.

Despite the Cats cutting the lead down to 14, the first and second quarters were still all about Nebraska. The group gained 246 total yards in the first, averaging 10.3 yards per play and 9.8 on the ground. Adding 159 yards in the second, the team stayed with the run game, rushing for two more touchdowns. By the end of the game, Northwestern gave up 664 yards — its most allowed in a game under Fitzgerald.

“Number one we have to look at what we are doing fundamentally, to me, that’s how you win games consistently,” Fitzgerald said. “Block destruction, fitting gaps right, having the right communication to make sure we are all on the same page in the right spot at the right time, and just winning on plays.”

Northwestern was unable to halt Nebraska’s momentum until late in the second quarter. However , NU couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities. The possession before, Northwestern journeyed down the field to the 1-yard line. However, a muffed read option between sophomore quarterback Ryan Hilinski and sophomore running back Evan Hull gave Nebraska the ball back. It was the last time the Cats’ traveled into the red zone.

A large factor to the struggles derived from the strength and pressure Nebraska applied, securing four sacks and seven tackles for losses, but other factors played a role as well. Throughout the game, NU lost four offensive linemen to injuries — senior Sam Gerak, sophomore Josh Priebe, junior Conrad Rowley and junior Ben Wrather.

“Having all those guys go down just means that we fought to the end,” Hilinski said. “Those guys are sacrificing their bodies for me, for the running backs, it makes me proud and it stinks of course.”

As Nebraska added 259 yards and 21 points in the second half, NU returns to Evanston for its bye week before facing Rutgers.

“(The) first thing I said to my teammates when we were in the locker room was ‘I love y’all boys,” junior cornerback A.J. Hampton Jr. said. “This is something that we can get fixed.”

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