Rapid Recap: Northwestern 31, Nebraska 28


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski looks to pass in the Wildcats’ 2021 game against Michigan. Hilinski passed for 216 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Skye Swann, Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern squared off with Nebraska Saturday across the pond in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium for the 2022 Aer Lingus College Football Classic, capturing a 31-28 victory.

Despite getting pummeled by the Cornhuskers 56-7 last season, the Wildcats (1-0, 1-0 in Big Ten) withstood adversity on the offensive end during the first quarter and scored the go-ahead touchdown to take a 17-14 halftime lead. After the Cornhuskers answered back with consecutive touchdowns to start the second half, NU responded with two touchdowns of their own to hold on to a nail biting lead.

Here are three takeaways from an entertaining season opener:



1.Hilinski seals starting quarterback job with statement performance

Junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski held his own under the big stadium lights in Dublin Saturday. The immense growth of Hilinski was a major headline of the first half, with a statline of 216 passing yards and two touchdowns. His vision on the field and awareness to get rid of the ball challenged the Cornhuskers’ defensive line, which was already dealing with the Cats’ potent backfield. In order for the NU’s season to make a complete transformation from their disappointing 2021 performance, his vision for his offensive line must continue to be crisp and top tier as they move forward this fall. Hilinski recorded 313 passing yards while completing 27 passes out of 38 attempts.

2. Offensive receiving and passing enjoy best performance in years

Compared to Northwestern’s offensive presence last season, the Wildcats had a strong presence offensively on the field. The group appeared solid, pushing past Nebraska’s defensive line and rushing to the flat side and grab yards. Junior running backs Evan Hull and Cam Porter led the group combining for a total of 213 yards. With Porter’s return to the field after an ACL injury ending his 2021 season short, the dynamic duo’s presence on the field will be a key component to the Cats’ offensive success.

3. Northwestern’s defensive pressure needs more intensity in the first half

The Wildcats’ defensive line struggled with energy after kickoff allowing Nebraska’s offensive squad to score a touchdown early in the first quarter. The team’s stagnancy on the field and miscommunication allowed the Cornhuskers to move through the squad easily without halting the game clock. However, the defensive end found its groove rearing towards the end of the first half stunning Nebraska’s offensive progress. NU’s stronger presence on this side of the field was the main reason the Cats got it together and stood in the game.

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