LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska escaped Memorial Stadium with a 27-24 victory over Northwestern on Saturday. Here’s what we learned:
1. There’s some fight left in these Huskers: Moments existed on Saturday during which Nebraska, on both sides of the football, appeared to have cashed in its chips. The Huskers missed more than a dozen tackles on Northwestern’s opening possession, including about six on a third-down, 10-yard run by Kain Colter, and allowed touchdowns on three of four drives to start the game. Offensively, little went well in the second half until Jordan Westerkamp’s Hail Mary reception from Ron Kellogg III to win the game. But when Nebraska needed big plays, it made them on both sides. In this way, the Huskers remain a positive reflection of coach Bo Pelini, whose fight has never been questioned.
2. For better or worse, Nebraska is sticking behind quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.: Pelini didn’t hesitate after the game when asked about his plan at QB as the Huskers move toward Michigan. Nebraska has decidedly moved away from senior Taylor Martinez to Armstrong and Kellogg. Even if Martinez gets healthy, Pelini appears set to stick with the inexperienced guys. Nebraska needs consistency at the position, a characteristic Martinez has not provided this season. Armstrong, who struggled in the passing game for a second consecutive start on Saturday, offers the promise of improvement. And apparently, he’s the future -- short-term and long.
3. The Blackshirts remain a mystery: Just when we thought we knew it all about the Nebraska defense after its dismal showing last week against Minnesota and a bad first quarter on Saturday, it stepped up big to contribute to this victory. Northwestern, hampered by injuries on the offensive side that grew worse in Lincoln, gained just 166 yards in the final three quarters and 104 after halftime. The Huskers largely contained Colter after his hot start. Defensive end Avery Moss scored on an interception return in the third quarter, when the Huskers needed a big play, and the defense stoned the Wildcats from the 1- and 3-yard lines to force a late field goal, allowing Westerkamp’s catch to win it.