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.

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

Husker running back Greg Bell hitting practice hard in hopes of winning starting spot

Hit it and get it. Nebraska running back Greg Bell doesn’t want to dance in the hole, slow down for a second or, truth be told, even talk about himself. Too much competition. Too big of a reward if he…

Husker notes: Tight ends shine in NU's scrimmage; Tyjon Lindsey catching on and more

One popular opinion among Husker offensive coaches Wednesday was that the tight ends solidified their reputation as much as any unit following Sunday's live-action scrimmage.

Shatel: With Scott Frost's new-school approach, curse words aren't in Husker coaches' vocabulary

New School is now in session. Here are the rules: No dog-cussing the players. No bullying or personal shots about their appearance. If you must chew, do so with a positive message. Teach. Look forward.

Tom's Takes: Nebraska's offensive line is adding physicality to its DNA

Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin offered a pretty insightful analysis of where the offensive line is two weeks before the Akron opener. There's good news. And could-be-better news.

As decision looms, Nebraska's quarterbacks still have moments of inconsistency

There are days Mario Verduzco grades film of Nebraska quarterbacks and likes what he sees. Good ball placement. Strong body language. Quick tempo. Then there are workouts like last Thursday and Friday, which the Husker QB coach labeled "kind of…

Husker practice report: Nebraska quarterback battle will continue into next week

Nebraska wrapped up its 11th workout of training camp Wednesday morning inside the Hawks Center. Afterward, offensive coordinator Troy Walters said Scott Frost — with input from his staff — will pick a starter soon between Tristan Gebbia, Adrian Martinez…

Want to make an all-Husker fantasy football team? Well, you can't. But here's something close

If you're looking for a nostalgic Husker pick in your upcoming fantasy football draft, here's your guide.

Sights and sounds from Nebraska football practice, Aug. 15

Nebraska kicked off practice early Wednesday morning. Media were allowed to watch about 40 minutes. Here's what we saw and heard.

Husker coach Mario Verduzco says QB battle still 'highly competitive'

Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco gave some insight into the quarterback battle on Sports Nightly Tuesday evening.

Allure of scholarships leads in-state players to lower-level programs instead of Huskers

Interstate 29 represents one of Scott Frost’s biggest in-state recruiting headaches. FCS schools in the Dakotas can’t compete with a Nebraska scholarship offer, but they can damage the Huskers' depth by taking players that may have otherwise walked on at…

In his first fall camp at Nebraska, aspiring dentist Tre Neal already knows the drill

Tre Neal, the Husker with more knowledge of the defense than anyone after transferring from UCF, has risen to the top of Nebraska's production chart that keeps score of plays made and not made in practices by members of the…

Mississippi transfer Breon Dixon wants to 'bring physicality' to the Husker defense

Breon Dixon can’t breathe. He’s cornered by reporters on the second floor of the Hawks Championship Center, gasping for air. “We’re looking way better I’d say as a team, as an offense …” out of breath, he trails off and…

Husker notes: Closing in on defensive starters; Tight races in secondary and more

Nebraska’s defensive coaches have a good grasp on who will be in the top two units after a major scrimmage Sunday, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Tuesday.

TBL: Blackshirt legend Grant Wistrom happy to deliver message to Huskers

Former Blackshirt Grant Wistrom believes Scott Frost is the right coach for the Huskers.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost says 'we’re never going to swear at kids' on Jim Rome Show

In the wake of reports about Maryland football’s toxic, bullying culture toward the players, Nebraska coach Scott Frost said Tuesday on the Jim Rome Show he’ll never try to motivate his team through intimidation.

Everything you need to know before attending Nebraska football Fan Day

The lines are sure to be long for Scott Frost's first Fan Day as head coach of the Huskers. Here's everything fans should know before attending the event.

'High intensity' talk from Jason Peter, Grant Wistrom inspires Husker defense

The pep talk worked. After Nebraska legends Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom talked to Husker players Friday night, the team had its most-spirited practice of training camp the following day.

Tickets available now for Husker Nation Kickoff Luncheons in Omaha, Lincoln

Tickets are on sale now for next week's Husker Nation Kickoff Luncheons in Lincoln and Omaha.

Husker practice report: Carlos Davis, JoJo Domann among players impressing in camp

Nebraska's defensive coaches have a good grasp on who will be in the top two units after a major scrimmage Sunday, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Tuesday. The next week is about trying to identify starters.

Nebraska has structure in place to avoid problems plaguing Ohio State, Maryland, says A.D. Bill Moos

Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said Monday on his monthly radio show there's a structure in place to make sure the athletic department avoids problems like what's currently plaguing Ohio State and Maryland.

Police arrest two more, including teen boy, in burglary at Husker coach Scott Frost's home

Police arrested a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of burglary, according to a news release from the Lincoln Police Department.

Past Husker coaches weren't sold on in-state talent, so Nebraskans thrived at Iowa instead

What happened in Giltner is a prime example of Nebraska’s in-state recruiting failures over the past 15 years. Another instance of a program that lost track of its identity and abandoned its roots.

Shatel: The image-conscious Big Ten isn't looking so good these days

If anyone asks you about being in the Big Ten these days, say, “We just got here, and we really don’t know anybody.”

Scott Frost considers intense new warmup to be a 'rite of passage' for Huskers

The dynamic warmup — or “stretch” as Scott Frost calls it — is a far cry from the static, stationary stretches employed under former coach Mike Riley. Setting the tone for the fast-paced action of practice, the new warmup is…

Barfknecht: With all the scandals, nothing is 'hunky-dory' for Jim Delany's Big Ten

Three weeks ago, we sportswriters scurried to our seats at Big Ten media days, sat upright in our chairs and kept our eyes forward to soak in Commissioner Jim Delany’s “hunky-dory’’ speech. But things haven’t been so hunky-dory since that…

Concussions turned a 200-pound fullback into a reluctant cross country runner

Beau Wood should’ve been Perkins County High School’s starting fullback and defensive end. Instead, he had become a reserve — on the cross-country team.

Nebraska high schoolers are turning away from football and embracing ... cross country?

Auburn had 81 players on its 2006 state championship football team. Last fall it had 29. Dozens of kids have turned away from football and found an alternative — cross country.

Husker Rewind: Ready to run the ball? Nebraska has its deepest stable of backs since 2011

Sam McKewon zeroed in on as many Husker running backs ran by. Collectively, it’s best bunch NU has had since 2011, when Burkhead started and Abdullah, Green and Heard backed him up.

Maryland puts coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave amid football investigation

Maryland placed head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave on Saturday while the school scrutinizes allegations of poor behavior by the football staff, apparent misdeeds that came to light following the death of a player on the practice field.

As populations plummet in northeast Nebraska, kids still dream of becoming the next Russ Hochstein

Hartington, a town resisting the forces of rural decline, hasn’t boasted a Husker football letterman since its All-America guard 17 years ago. But Scott Frost is back in Lincoln and there’s hope that the drought may end soon, perhaps with…