Game Day: Nebraska vs. Northwestern

NU seeing NU

With all the close games over the last eight years, plus the beloved alums as head coaches and NU abbreviations, Nebraska and Northwestern have a lot more in common than Husker fans might realize — or care to admit.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Northwestern rush defense

Lost amid the blowout loss to Ohio State was the Huskers’ 184 rushing yards, including a long scramble from Adrian Martinez and 67 yards from Dedrick Mills. Anything over 150 yards in a game like this would be advantage Nebraska, and it’ll be tough for the Huskers to get there unless Martinez is heavily involved in the attack. Look for that to happen. Nebraska could use more of its I-formation and double wing material and attack Northwestern’s edges, forcing linebackers Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher to run laterally.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Northwestern pass defense

The Wildcats are gettable in the pass game. They’ll run zone quite a bit behind a four- or five-man pass rush, and they’ll probably allow some quick, rhythm passes for Martinez. It might be a nice tight end game for Jack Stoll and Austin Allen, who may need to get more involved if the Huskers can’t get one of its receivers not named JD Spielman and Wan’Dale Robinson going. Robinson will likely spend some time in the backfield anyway. Isolating Maurice Washington on a safety or linebacker would be nice. So would protecting Martinez long enough to make that play work. The pass protection this season hasn’t been consistent or up to snuff.

Northwestern rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

The Wildcats stick, stick, stick to the run even when it doesn’t bear much fruit, flipping the switch to the pass game when needed in the fourth quarter. Northwestern’s run game isn’t bad, either, anchored by freshman running back Drake Anderson, who gets through a hole fast. You’ll watch Anderson and wonder how he went to Northwestern. Here’s the answer: His dad is Damien Anderson, who rushed for 2,000 yards on the 2000 Northwestern team that played Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. Drake’s pretty good — better than most backs in the Big Ten — and if the Wildcats can get their zone read game going, he’ll be a handful.

Northwestern pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Northwestern throws more fourth quarter passes than any team in the Big Ten. The Wildcats procrastinate, in a sense. They’re not very good at passing and even if they get better, they’ll still be among the worst passing teams in college football. This is only a little bit on quarterbacks Hunter Johnson and Aidan Smith, both of whom need to sense pressure and read defenses better. It’s a whole team issue, down to the receivers who don’t get open and the offensive line that gives up nearly three sacks per game. Nebraska has to attack, attack, attack Northwestern’s pass game.

Special teams

Can this category be a push in the name of futility? Nebraska’s special teams issues are well-known — no proven field goal kicker, no proven kickoff specialist, another season of peculiar play on the kickoff return. And Northwestern, well, it’s not cheap to go there, so populating special teams with key walk-ons can be an adventure. The Wildcats' punter, Daniel Kubiuk, ranks last in the league in yards per punt, and he’s allowed 11 returns, which tells you eventually some opponent will break one. Spielman may be that guy.

Intangibles

Northwestern always gets better as the season progresses. September is typically a messy month, and it was again with a 1-3 record, but the Wildcats tend to follow a well-worn path of struggles followed by surprising wins over more talented, seemingly superior teams. They don’t tend to beat themselves much — strategic conservatism is part of why — whereas Nebraska is more prone to bouts of self-destruction. The Huskers are more talented, but still fitting into their identity. Northwestern beat Nebraska in Memorial Stadium in 2011, 2015 and 2017. Only a Hail Mary kept the Wildcats from winning in 2013.

Key matchup: Northwestern’s third-down offense vs. Nebraska’s third-down defense

When the Huskers get offenses off the field quick, it fuels their offense. Nebraska’s offense is bound to blast sooner or later in a game, but it’s not quite efficient, so it needs more opportunities. That’s the gift Nebraska’s defense can give: More chances. Northwestern’s offense is converting just 33.82% of its third downs. One out of three. That should give the Huskers’ offense more chances at scoring.

Our take

Watch Big Ten football, over any period of time, and you'll notice Northwestern’s peculiar ability to win games it has no business winning, such as the 2018 game over the Huskers. The Wildcats scratch and scratch, waiting for opponents to itch and make a mistake. They often do. Northwestern’s success is often more a referendum and commentary on the opponent than Northwestern itself. That said — the Wildcats are really struggling on offense. They’re no better than Northern Illinois, which wasn’t any good at all against Nebraska. You put Northwestern and NIU on a field, and that’s a 13-3 Northwestern win. Nebraska has enough juice on offense to quiet the Wildcats in Lincoln. Northwestern is going to upset some team in league play. It won’t be the Huskers.

Our prediction: NEBRASKA 27, NORTHWESTERN 17

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Northwestern matchup provided by the Husker 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 Red Today coverage

Monday rewind: Nebraska football needs a spark — and maybe a little time 'away from each other'

We wrote this story out of Minnesota in 2013 and 2017, too. The names change. The clichés, too, a little bit. And even if it’s supposed to be different under Scott Frost — even if, one day, it is —…

Stopping the run is crucial in the Big Ten West, and Husker football ranks as the worst

Time and again, opposing coaches see Nebraska step off the bus and wonder if they can run the ball on them. And then they do.

Fremont Bergan offensive lineman Eli Simonson to walk on at Nebraska

Fremont Bergan senior Eli Simonson joined the growing list of in-state walk-ons to Nebraska.

The Wild West or a regulated market? The realities of potential college athlete compensation

There's a debate gaining steam after California passed a law last week opening the door for college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

'Keep it going or pack it up': Scott Frost delivers frank message to Huskers after Minnesota loss

Scott Frost had one hand in his pocket, and the other one was carrying a playsheet. And nothing was fine for the Nebraska football coach.

Shatel: Mugging in Minnesota shows Scott Frost's Huskers still lacking muscle, mindset

P.J. Fleck just shoved his oar right down Nebraska’s throat. People like to laugh at Fleck, the Minnesota football coach, saying he’s a huckster and a fake. Well, there was nothing fake about what Fleck’s Gophers did to Nebraska on…

Huskers 'knocked out of position' as physical Gophers pound Nebraska with ground game

The blank faces said it all. By the time Nebraska defenders trudged off the cold and misty field at TCF Bank Stadium, they had already processed much of the carnage. A 20-point third quarter that blew the doors off a…

Losing numbers: The stats and figures that defined Nebraska's loss to Minnesota

A closer look at the defining stats and figures from the Huskers' loss to Minnesota on Saturday.

Husker notes: Technique hounds NU offensive line in loss; Battling the elements

Offensive line coach Greg Austin gathered his players on the field as Nebraska’s fate was going final. He presented them with two choices.

Video: Watch Scott Frost's complete postgame press conference following Minnesota loss

We'll take you inside the postgame interviews with full video from Scott Frost's press conference discussing the Huskers' loss to Minnesota.

Noah Vedral's first college start didn't go the way he — or the Huskers — wanted

Vedral completed 14 of 23 passes for 135 yards and ran 15 times for 49 yards in the 34-7 loss to Minnesota.

Carriker Chronicles: Gut reaction to Nebraska's loss to Minnesota

On Saturday's episode, Adam Carriker gives his quick take on the Huskers' loss to Minnesota, including the Gophers being the more physical — and better — team.

Even with soft spots disguised as strengths, Minnesota finds room in Husker football's front seven

Minnesota carved up Nebraska’s defense with its run game Saturday night because it spotted soft spots disguised as strengths.

Nebraska-Minnesota: Breaking down the Huskers' performance on offense and defense

World-Herald staff writer Chris Heady takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers' loss to Minnesota.

Nebraska-Minnesota: Three things we learned, three things we still don't know

Three things we learned and three things we still don’t know about the Huskers coming out of Saturday's loss to Minnesota.

Tom's Takes: The Huskers will need to improve — especially in the trenches — to reach a bowl game

World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel shares his immediate thoughts following the Huskers' 34-7 loss to Minnesota.

Quarterback tracker: Noah Vedral has no touchdowns, but leads Huskers in rushing

Each week, The World-Herald will track the Nebraska quarterback's play game-to-game, including wow plays, turnovers, market indicator and more.

Huskers fail to score until fourth quarter in lopsided loss at Minnesota

Nebraska didn't score until the fourth quarter and gave up more than 300 rushing yards in a 34-7 loss to the Gophers.

Huskers gashed on the ground by Minnesota, give up 220 rushing yards in first half

Wan'Dale Robinson carted to locker room after injuring lower left leg

Nebraska was already down one of its top offensive weapons heading into Saturday night's game with Minnesota.

Husker pregame: Adrian Martinez not dressed for warmups; Noah Vedral poised for first start

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is not suited up for the game an hour ahead of kickoff and will not play against Minnesota.

A brief 15-year history of first starts for Nebraska quarterbacks

Over the last 15 years, 12 Husker quarterbacks have started games at NU. Noah Vedral would be the 13th.

Ernie Chambers prepares bill to compensate college athletes he calls 'unpaid employees'

Chambers finally sees the NCAA inching toward dramatic reform after passage of a California law permitting athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

Georgia defensive lineman Marquis Black commits to Nebraska

Marquis Black publicly announced his pledge to the Huskers on Saturday, two weeks after officially visiting for the Ohio State game.

McKewon: Marquis Black brings versatility to fit anywhere on Huskers' defensive line

Nebraska received a commitment from McDonough (Ga.) Eagles Landing defensive tackle Marquis Black. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder.

Get ready for Husker football and follow live coverage all day

Check out our preview stories for tonight's game against Minnesota and stay tuned for complete coverage from TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Shatel: What's up with Adrian Martinez? Is Noah Vedral ready? Let's ask Mario Verduzco

Noah Vedral knows the offense back and forward. We haven’t seen a lot of his game. He got in one game last year. And then last week. That’s the beauty of it, too. There isn’t a lot of film of…

$250,000-a-year consulting deal for former NU President Hank Bounds draws both concerns, praise

Some regents say it’s a win for Nebraska to bring Hank Bounds back because he is a good fundraiser who knows and cares about the projects involved. Some observers say they are perplexed by the amount he will receive, and…

They both have young offenses, but Minnesota can show Nebraska how fast they grow up

The Huskers think a strong second half is coming. Their counterparts in Minneapolis have already experienced it.

Former Huskers in the XFL draft pool; Draft takes place Oct. 15-16

The draft will take place Oct. 15-16 with games scheduled to begin in February.