Game Day: Nebraska vs. Northwestern

A GAME OF RUNS? NOT TO THESE GUYS.

With Northwestern visiting Saturday for an 11 a.m. game at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska ranks No. 7 nationally in rushing defense, allowing 91 yards a game. Only two backs have finished a game with more than 100 yards against the Huskers, and in three games no opponent has exceeded 30.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Northwestern rush defense

According to his handful of Internet critics, Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf doesn't call enough running plays, but the Huskers have run the ball with pop and efficiency this season, as evidenced by 5.35 yards per carry on the ground. Nebraska has found a rhythm to its running back rotation of Terrell Newby, Devine Ozigbo, Imani Cross and Andy Janovich. Northwestern's run defense gives up 4.24 yards per carry — 11th in the Big Ten. Michigan and Iowa proved teams can run right at Northwestern's front seven.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Northwestern pass defense

Husker quarterback Tommy Armstrong played his most efficient game at Minnesota, completing 69.2 percent of his passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. The Husker wide receiver corps is close to full strength with the return of De'Mornay Pierson-El. Northwestern's pass defense ranks second in the Big Ten in overall efficiency. The Wildcats are deadly in the red zone, where they've allowed just five completions and intercepted two passes. Nebraska needs its pass game to produce something, but Northwestern, with an experienced secondary, may be the toughest challenge yet.

Northwestern rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

No team in the nation has faced fewer rush attempts per game than Nebraska, which should drop a major hint as to how Northwestern will fare. The Wildcats are most likely to stay committed to the run game — quarterback Clayton Thorson is a mediocre passer at best — but backs Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault are unlikely to get too untracked against a team bent on stopping the run with two defensive tackles — Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine — suited to do it.

Northwestern pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

The Wildcats' fervent desire to prevent Thorson — who was benched in the Iowa game for backup Zack Oliver — means that Northwestern's pass game is limited and mostly a complement to the ground game. But Nebraska's pass defense hasn't bowed up against any other team this year, and Northwestern's collection of receivers — Christian Jones, Miles Shuler, Dan Vitale and Austin Carr are among them — are probably better than what Wisconsin and Minnesota put on the field against the Huskers. Both of those teams topped the 300-yard mark.

Special teams

This category almost always tends to favor the team with more depth and talent, which means that it will favor Nebraska. The Huskers' punt and kickoff coverage — aided by punter Sam Foltz and kicker Drew Brown — have been solid, but the return units have been inconsistent-to-awful, especially on kickoff returns. Northwestern kick returner Solomon Vault is dangerous. The Wildcats' punter, Hunter Niswander, gets good hangtime on his punts, often forcing returners into fair catches.

Intangibles

Which team is hungrier to win? Well, Northwestern, which is coming off of two humiliating losses. The Wildcats know why they lost so badly to Michigan and Iowa and are determined to reverse the trend. For whatever reason, Nebraska has been a hot-and-cold team — often in the same game — in 11 a.m. starts. The Husker crowd should be juiced for alternate uniforms. Of course, they didn't do Northwestern much good in 2012 and 2014, when the Wildcats wore them against the Huskers.

Key matchup: Northwestern's offensive line vs. Nebraska's defensive line

Of all the teams Nebraska will face, Northwestern is the least likely to take advantage of the Huskers' bad pass defense. The Wildcats have to run the ball well on first and second down or face the consequences. But if they do, Nebraska's defense could be in for a long day.

Our take

This game seems like a trap for Nebraska. The opponent is hungry and stingy against the pass. Nebraska has just won a game and is perhaps looking to build on that momentum. Further, there's a sense that Husker coaches are worried — perhaps too worried — about Northwestern's run defense in a way that makes you wonder if Nebraska will try to pass too much. But the Wildcats are not a hard bunch to figure out. Stop the run, force the pass, grind clock, go home with a win. We'll bet on Nebraska doing that — just barely.

Our prediction: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 20

Live updates

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will start broadcasting live at 9:30 a.m. Saturday from the Lincoln Railyard, then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show with Mike'l and Joe Ganz. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Northwestern matchup provided by the NU Athletic Department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History Database is your new home for archiving one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.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. Plus, look back at historical moments in Nebraska football by following @HuskerHistory on Twitter.

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

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…