Nebraska kept itself in the running for the Legends Division title by digging itself into a deep hole with turnovers and penalties, then finding a way to claw its way out for a 29-28 road win over Northwestern Saturday.Much of the game looked like a copy of the Wildcats’ 28-25 win last year in Lincoln. For the second year in a row, Taylor Martinez and Cornhusker pass receivers played well while offensive linemen bumbled, stumbled and literally ran into each other.
Martinez shook off the memory of a bad night at Columbus, Ohio, just two weeks earlier and completed 27 of 38 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning 7-yard TD pass to tight end Ben Cotton with 2:08 left. Martinez also ran for a TD to help jumpstart Nebraska’s comeback from a 28-16 deficit midway through the fourth quarter. Nebraska improved to 5-2 (2-1 Big Ten) and Northwestern fell to 6-2 (2-2).
Here are my three main points. You are welcome to make yours on the Talk Back.
1. Nebraska is developing a set of outstanding pass receivers. Sophomore Kenny Bell is explosive and resilient; he overcame a fumble and made some big plays, including a touchdown catch in the second quarter. Quincy Enunwa, a big, physical senior, caught six passes for 110 yards and made key catches on both of Nebraska’s fourth-quarter TD drives despite being in obvious pain on the sidelines. Sophomore Jamal Turner continues to improve, although he had a big catch nullified by an o-line penalty.
2. With Rex Burkhead hobbled by a knee injury, there’s a noticeable deficit in the Cornhusker senior class. Daimion Stafford nullified what would have been the Huskers’ only takeaway with a personal foul penalty on a first-quarter punt, showing a lack of discipline. P.J. Smith dropped interceptions. Kyler Reed fumbled deep in Northwestern territory and crashed into teammate Spencer Long on a fourth-and-3 play in the second half, giving Martinez no blocking at the point of attack. Nebraska would be a much better team if it got more big plays from its seniors instead of being forced to overcome their mistakes.
3. The Husker kicking game was not good. On the plus side, it didn’t give up a long return to Northwestern, Brett Maher made a 27-yard field goal and he pinned Northwestern deep with a couple of his punts. On the other hand, Maher shanked a poor kick, and the Husker return game was negligible, even if you ignore the two fumbled punts, which were devastating.
Tad Stryker is the former sports editor of the North Platte Bulletin and provides analysis after each Husker football game for Bulletin readers. Stryker also writes for HuskerMax. (http://www.huskermax.com).