The October blues continue for Northwestern as they were defeated by Nebraska at home 29-28 on Saturday.
The Wildcats were unable to get into any rhythm offensively as the Cornhuskers limited Northwestern’s rushing attack en route to a crucial victory on the road.
Wearing black jerseys and slick black and silver helmets couldn’t help the Wildcats preserve a victory in front of 47,330 spectators at Ryan Field. Northwestern’s offense was outmatched by a Nebraska defense that didn’t allow the Wildcats to rush over 200 yards collectively.
“You’re going to have highs and lows in this game of football,” said Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter. “It’s not the first game we’ve lost. Obviously, the fashion we lost is disappointing, especially when we felt we had control most of the game.”
Colter who has thrived in this offense earlier this season, has seen his production drop over the past three games. Since the Wildcats had an offensive explosion of 704 yards of total offense against Indiana on Sept. 29, Northwestern hasn’t found consistent success on offense and has struggled over their last three contests.
Trevor Siemian and Colter were held to 121 yards passing while Colter managed to rush for only 43 yards. While there were slight positives with the Wildcats offense, there wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of third down conversions for Northwestern.
The Wildcats finished the game converting just five 20 third downs but did convert two fourth down attempts. Northwestern also lost the time of possession battle as Nebraska held the ball for 32 minutes compared to the Wildcats 27 minutes.
“It’s tough, but you can’t make excuses,” Colter said. “A bunch of guys are playing different positions. As far as getting into a rhythm, I feel like it’s just a momentum kind of thing. Once you get that first down, the release is off of you. Now we can go play, and get into our tempo, and that could really help us against a defense. When you can’t get first downs, you can’t do that, and that’s kind of what happened today.”
Nebraska had multiple chances to throw away this game with three costly turnovers in the first half but managed to regroup after halftime. Quarterback Taylor Martinez led the Cornhuskers on consecutive scoring drive in the fourth quarter after trailing 28-16.
Northwestern’s offense was pressured throughout the game and although they had opportunities to beat the Cornhuskers man-to-man coverage, dropped passes and failed third down conversions doomed the Wildcats.
Other than Venric Mark’s 80-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, the Wildcats rushing attack was stymied by a Nebraska defense that gave up 63 points to Ohio State on Oct. 6.
The Cornhuskers outgained Northwestern 543-301 in offensive yards and were able to rush for 201 yards. Martinez rushed for 99 yards while Ameer Abdullah had 103 yards on the ground.
After going ahead 28-16 behind a 3-yard touchdown run from Mike Trumpy, the Wildcats couldn’t stop Nebraska from eventually taking the lead. Martinez lead the Cornhuskers on multiple scoring drives late in the fourth quarter of 76 and 80 yards respectively.
“The last two drives, they just made plays and we didn’t,” said Northwestern linebacker Damien Proby. “We were on top of every route, they just made plays and we didn’t. We have to capitalize on that; we need to improve on that area of our defense.”
Trailing 29-28 with 2:08 remaining, the Wildcats drove the ball to Nebraska’s 36 but failed to convert on third down, before Jeff Budzien missed his first field goal of the season from 53 yards.
The loss marks the Wildcats first defeat at home this season and second loss in their past three games overall. Northwestern also damaged its hopes of winning the Legends Division with the loss and will face a major test next Saturday when they host Iowa.
“We still have all of our goals in front of us,” Colter said. “We’re not in control of that anymore, some things have to happen, but if we play the way we’re capable we’ll still be in the conversation for the champion of this league.”
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