Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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What to Watch For: Northwestern hopes to get above .500 after bye week, returns to action Saturday against Nebraska

Northwestern+quarterback+Brendan+Sullivan+pans+the+field+to+make+a+pass.+Sullivan+threw+for+131+yards+in+the+win+against+Howard.+
Daily file photo by Micah Sandy
Northwestern quarterback Brendan Sullivan pans the field to make a pass. Sullivan threw for 131 yards in the win against Howard.

Coming off its bye week, Northwestern hopes to pick up where it left off — a 23-20 win over Howard — facing Nebraska in Lincoln.

Currently sitting at .500, the Wildcats’ (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) clash against the Cornhuskers (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) will be a big test. The ‘Cats will enter one of college football’s most hostile atmospheres in Memorial Stadium, which hosted over 87,000 fans last time the two teams squared off in Lincoln.

However, with the absences of graduate student starting quarterback Ben Bryant and senior wide receiver A.J. Henning versus Howard, NU’s win over the Bison spoke volumes to the depth of the team.

Now on the road, interim head coach David Braun’s squad will have to focus up. Ahead of Saturday’s game, here are a few things to look out for.

1. Will Braun and his coaching staff turn back to Sullivan, or will Bryant be ready to go?

Braun’s role as the face and leader of the program has paid dividends. The ‘Cats stand at .500 after the bye week for the first time since the 2020 season.

But, will this success continue without Bryant?

“We anticipate that (Henning) will be good to go,” Braun said on Monday. “A.J. has been practicing as has (Lausch). Ben continues to progress, (but) not sure what his status will be.”

With Bryant’s availability in question, NU will likely turn to junior quarterback Brendan Sullivan for the start on Saturday. Sullivan held his own in the squad’s victory over the Bison, throwing for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

The starting quarterback may not be determined until this weekend, but Braun’s decision will play a crucial role in the offense’s success against Nebraska.

2. NU’s defense must cool down Nebraska’s fiery offense

While the ‘Cats stood idle this past week, the Cornhuskers were active on the field, pushing past conference foe Illinois with a 20-7 win.

Nebraska’s offensive efficiency against the Illini’s defensive unit is a good barometer for what to expect in its upcoming performance against NU’s defense. Cornhuskers quarterback Heinrich Haarberg commands the offense, while Nebraska’s rushing game averages 234.8 yards per game.

Braun noted the Cornhuskers’ elevated offensive showing in Monday’s press conference and said that the team will be a “great challenge” for the ‘Cats secondary.

“There’s a lot of work ahead if we want to accomplish the goals that we set ahead for ourselves,” Braun said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for our guys to challenge themselves against a Nebraska team that is certainly going to look to establish the run game.”

Some of the team’s defensive leaders include senior linebacker Xander Mueller, who stole the spotlight during the team’s win over Howard with seven solo tackles. Senior defensive back Rod Heard II and junior defensive back Theran Johnson finished with five tackles apiece.

3. NU has the potential to polarize the Big Ten with a win

According to SportsBookWire, the Cornhuskers are favored to win Saturday’s game by a double-digit margin.

Although, if the ‘Cats stick to the script, as Braun said on Monday, they have the ability to take down the presumed victor.

NU hasn’t let the “underdogs” label deter it when stepping in between the lines. Saturday will be a chance for the ‘Cats to prove the world wrong and answer questions on what’s to come for the remaining weeks of the season.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @sswann301

Related Stories:
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