Game Day: Nebraska vs. Northwestern

A lot on the mind

An up-and-down season finds Nebraska at a pivotal point in the schedule. Coming out of a devastating loss at Minnesota, the Huskers face a team with its own roller-coaster campaign in the Northwestern Wildcats. Can Nebraska overcome key injuries, defensive breakdowns and distractions to get back on track? Husker linebacker Michael Rose can think of one way to put the questions to rest: "We just gotta go out there and make plays."

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Rich Kaipust

Nebraska rush offense vs. Northwestern rush defense

Nebraska strayed from its ground game last week, calling only about two dozen run plays, but I-back Ameer Abdullah still carried for 165 yards. Northwestern is going to be a little more susceptible up front than Minnesota — and who knows if they load the box as the Gophers did — but you have to wonder at least some about the Huskers’ absence of Spencer Long at right guard. Also take note of Northwestern holding Iowa to 3.3 yards a carry last week. Edge: Nebraska

Nebraska pass offense vs. Northwestern pass defense

NU barely went over 50 percent last week with the combination of some drops and missed throws by Taylor Martinez. It will try to get back in sync with Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg at quarterback, with Kellogg the more accurate thrower. Teams have thrown on Northwestern (59.2 percent, 245.8 yards per game) but the Wildcats do have a Big Ten-best 14 interceptions. Edge: Nebraska

Northwestern rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Hard to give the Huskers the defensive edge here after Minnesota became their fifth opponent to run for 195 yards or more (271, 5.0 per carry). The problem for Northwestern is that it again won’t have tailback Venric Mark, and the health of quarterback Kain Colter is a little iffy. Still, the Wildcats have had decent success running the football on NU the last two years. Edge: Northwestern

Northwestern pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

The Wildcats have cut back on the snaps taken by Trevor Siemian, and Siemian is a better passer than Colter. Northwestern also hasn’t protected very well with 28 sacks allowed, by far the most of any Big Ten team. Nebraska’s last three opponents have completed just 45.2 percent of their passes, but Minnesota needed only eight completions last week to rack up 159 yards on the Huskers. Edge: Nebraska

Special teams

Northwestern is last in the Big Ten in net punting (33.0 yards) and Nebraska is last in punt returns (4.0), so that might be an ugly standoff. The Wildcats have one of the league’s top kickers with Jeff Budzien, who has made 32 of 35 field goals the last two seasons, although Pat Smith connected on three last week for NU. The Huskers rank third in net punting (39.4), lead the league with 33 touchbacks on 51 kickoffs and probably have just a little more explosive capability on kickoff returns. Edge: Nebraska

Intangibles

Northwestern has no fear of the Huskers, beating them two years ago in Lincoln and leading them 28-16 last season before Nebraska rallied. You wonder about the psyche of both teams: Nebraska has a wounded feel to it after last week and Northwestern hasn’t won since Sept. 21. Injuries on offense have hurt both, but the Wildcats are just a little bit better with things such as penalties (fewer than five per game) and forced turnovers (18), and the Huskers are coming off a game where they failed to finish some key drives. Edge: Northwestern

Key matchup: Kain Colter vs. the Nebraska defense

Yeah, his ankle is hurting and the senior hasn’t put up the huge numbers this season, but the Nebraska defense — all levels of it — surely remembers what Colter did as a runner, passer and receiver two years ago. If he mostly sticks to quarterback Saturday, containing his run threat will be the highest priority for NU.

Nebraska wins if ...

Its struggling defense can take advantage of Northwestern already hurting offensively from some injuries and ineffective weeks.

Northwestern wins if ...

It can return to the offense that was clicking in September and maybe dial up some of that Kain Colter magic from 2011 in Lincoln.

Our take

Northwestern has been a vastly better team in November than October the last few seasons, a nod to head coach Pat Fitzgerald holding his teams together no matter the circumstances. Nebraska also showed it could finish strong when it was in a similar position a year ago and won its last six. It’s a little hard to tell which team might be poised to piece things back together Saturday, so we’ll say it stays close.

Our prediction: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 23

Live updates

 

Videos

Extras

Printable rosters

Looking for a handy reference guide that you can take to the game? Check out our two-page printable roster, sorted by jersey number and including height, weight, year in school, hometown and high school information. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Northwestern game provided by the Huskers athletic department. Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks.

BRT app

iPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Listen: BRT Podcast

In this week’s edition of "The Big Red Today Podcast," Jon Nyatawa and Sam McKewon analyze the fallout from Nebraska’s surprising loss to Minnesota. Why couldn’t NU stop the Gophers’ plan? And what will future opponents take from last week and use against the Huskers going forward? The staff writers also try to determine what Nebraska’s offensive strategy will be going forward. Click here »

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Midlands ties hard to miss at Rutgers

Though Rutgers is as East Coast as you can get in the Big Ten, the football program has Midlands connections rivaling many schools in the league.

Chatelain: Badgers won’t bemoan their brutal schedule

Aaron Rodgers, king of the Hail Mary, probably didn’t need a kiss from the scheduling gods to win big in 2016. But he got one. The Packers’ slate, according to last year’s records, is the easiest in the NFL. Only…

Thanks to exchanges with Fake Bo Pelini, Nebraskans got to know the real Mike Sadler

It all started randomly, like everything Faux Pelini does. Two days before Christmas 2013, one of college football’s great characters (and caricatures) tweeted at Michigan State’s All-America punter, Mike Sadler.

Barfknecht: Illini A.D. lovingly chose alma mater’s coach, but work to be done on the field

When Illinois hired Josh Whitman as athletic director five months ago, he needed no research to learn what kind of football program he inherited. He played in it from 1997-2000 as a four-year starting tight end.

Former Husker kicker Kris Brown, four others chosen for Nebraska Hall of Fame

As Kris Brown prepared for one of the most important kicks of his college career, the goalposts were still moving a little. “As if it weren’t hard enough,” the former Nebraska kicker said.

Recruiting: Huskers dive back into recruiting with recent offers

After a quiet month of July with Nebraska coaches taking much-needed time off, the Huskers seem ready to dive back into the world of recruiting.

Big Ten notes: Fant makes good first impression with Beathard, Hawkeyes; Memorial Stadium memories and more

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was eating dinner with three of his players in Chicago on Monday when his quarterback brought up an impressive freshman tight end from Omaha.

Nebraskans pay tribute to Sam Foltz at site of accident

Omahan Dennis McCann was in Wisconsin last weekend to visit his daughter, her husband and his two grandsons. The family also took in a Cubs-Brewers baseball game in Milwaukee.

In Sam Foltz's hometown, loss is 'like a death in the family'

When he trotted onto the field at Memorial Stadium, the announcer boomed: “Sam Foltz. Punter. Small-town, USA. Greeley, Nebraska.” If a town could cry, tears were pouring down the face of Greeley on Monday.

Shatel: Tragedy brings Huskers, Big Ten closer together

What was striking was the number of other media types and school officials who stopped me in the hallways to see how Nebraskans were doing. You could see the pain in their eyes. They wanted to help. And some had…

Accident takes Husker kicker Drew Brown’s close friend — Sam Foltz, his ‘hero’

Late Saturday night, Foltz died as the passenger in a fiery car crash on a wet, two-lane road near Merton, Wisconsin. Brown, who also worked at the Kohl’s Kicking Camp over the weekend with Foltz, learned of the crash before…

Shatel: B1G TV deals take away any excuses Nebraska, Big Ten not to excel

Hold onto that lotto ticket, Nebraska. No news is still good news for the Big Ten, but the lack of fireworks here Tuesday was surprising. Conference media days are where splashes are made, and we expected Jim Delany to do…

Nyatawa: Sam Foltz was an impressive player and person

I arrived early to Husker practice just so I could watch Sam Foltz kick. That’s what I told an NU assistant when he walked up and asked why I was standing by myself on the Memorial Stadium sideline.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany mum on TV details, but hints he may not be around to negotiate the next deal

Jim Delany held to his policy of not confirming any speculation on dollar amounts for the new contracts signed with FOX and ESPN.

Nebraska special teams coordinator Bruce Read, punter Caleb Lightbourn still following Sam Foltz’s lead

At the end of the specialists’ portion of football practice, Nebraska special teams coordinator Bruce Read would sometimes gather his kickers, punters, snappers and holders for a brief word. When Read was done, he said, he’d turn to Sam Foltz.

Huskers come together to grieve Sam Foltz: 'A part of everybody in the state died over the weekend'

Players and coaches will feel the impact most, sports psychologist Jack Stark said. And working through stages of grief — from shock to an eventual, gradual acceptance — will take time. At some point, Stark said, players will feel anger,…

Barfknecht: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh can let his team's talent do the talking

The load of star power is why Michigan has been a surprise entry in many preseason top 10s. Bring it on, Harbaugh says. “We want our dreams to be big and our goals to be lofty,” he said.

Big Ten notes: No Huskers make preseason watch list; Claeys kicking around idea

For the first time since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, the Huskers do not have a representative on the league’s preseason watch list. The conference doesn’t release an official coaches’ poll or a position-by-position all-league squad. Instead, the Big Ten…

Sam Foltz was part of elite group of Husker walk-ons who earned scholarships

“We saw the ball coming off his foot and we were like, ‘Man, I think he’s a punter,’ ” said former Nebraska walk-on coordinator Jeff Jamrog. Foltz was also a part of a 2012 walk-on class that ranks among the…

Big Ten media days open with somber tone after accident claims lives of Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler

The unofficial start to the league’s football season was still worth celebrating, but seemingly everyone — whether behind a camera or in front of it — wanted to take a moment to express sympathy and support for the two conference…

Big Ten coaches extend sympathy to Huskers, say there are no easy answers after losing a player

At Big Ten media days Monday, Nebraska’s peers extended sympathy following Sam Foltz’s death. None, however, spoke with as much experience as Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, who understands the challenges Mike Riley will face over the coming months — and the…

Shatel: Like Brook Berringer, like Brian Hiemer, Huskers again deal with stunning loss of Sam Foltz

One of the benefits of following college football is being around these young men at a great time in their lives — for many, it’s the time of their lives. It’s truly a joyful thing, and a terrific escape from…

Barfknecht: Big Ten media days will have refreshing theme — football

Let’s get something straight about Monday and Tuesday’s Big Ten media days. Regardless of what happens — even if (or when) Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh rides in on a unicorn to tell of a satellite camp on Mars — it…

Husker punter Sam Foltz — 'universally loved and respected by everyone he touched' — dies in car wreck

Over the weekend, Foltz was working a punting camp in Wisconsin, and died as a passenger in a car that struck a tree in Merton, Wisconsin.

McKewon: Don’t get defensive (or do) over 2016 list of top Big Ten players

On the eve of Big Ten media days, here’s a bold prediction: The league might be even better on defense than it was last season. And last season was pretty terrific, with five teams in the nation’s top 20 scoring…

Senior back Terrell Newby determined to deliver better Husker ground game

Terrell Newby outlined his mindset for his senior season at NU and improving the Huskers’ running game, a key to the team bettering its 6-7 record from last year. “It’s time to get to a graduate level of knowing this…

Shatel: Huskers at home in Big Ten, ignoring call from the past by Big 12

Enough already. Folks, it’s not happening. Nobody in charge at NU wants to return to the Big 12. Very few Husker fans I know or hear from want it to happen. The vessel is pointed north and east after the…

Former Husker coordinator Tim Beck saw year of adjustments at Ohio State

Many months removed from last season — OSU finished 12-1 with a 17-14 last-second loss to Michigan State — Beck is excited and optimistic about his second season in coach Urban Meyer’s program.

Huskers' John Parrella feels urgency to succeed; 'We need to be great now'

Nebraska defensive line coach John Parrella will open preseason camp in two weeks with a defensive line that has a combined nine career starts and a host of underclassmen waiting and needing to contribute.

TBL: Husker recruiting report with Nate Clouse, talking latest prospects and more

Husker Online's Nate Clouse joined host Mike'l Severe on "The Bottom Line" on Monday for a Nebraska recruiting update. They discussed the list of potential prospects Nebraska is targeting, the biggest area of need for the team and more.