Nebraska was riding high after a big win over Michigan State, but Northwestern played the role of spoiler Saturday by making big plays in the fourth quarter to clinch the upset. Here is what went well, what didn’t, and everything else you need to satiate your Nebraska football appetite:
Taylor Martinez’s passing: The Nebraska signal-caller has received large amounts of criticism for his throwing abilities this season, but had his best passing game of the season against the Wildcats. Martinez was 28-of-37 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His completion percentage of 75.7 was a career-high. Trailing throughout the contest and facing a Northwestern defense that was loading the box to stop the run, Nebraska was forced to pass often, and Martinez came through in a big way.
Nebraska’s rushing attack: Simply put, NU just didn’t get it done on the ground. Nebraska’s offensive line struggled in the trenches, and the Husker runners couldn’t find room to run. Rex Burkhead carried the ball 22 times, but collected just 69 yards and one touchdown. The junior also lost a fumble on 1st-and-goal early in the second quarter with Nebraska threatening to tie the game. Northwestern wasn’t able to convert the turnover into points, but the fumble proved costly in the Huskers’ three-point loss.
By the numbers
122: The number of rushing yards for the Nebraska offense, which was a season low. It marked just the third time this season the Huskers failed to rush for at least 200 yards. This came against a Northwestern squad that entered the contest with the 95th-ranked rushing defense in the country. While it was encouraging to see Martinez have a good passing game, running the ball is NU’s bread-and-butter, and the team struggles without a ground game. The Huskers are 6-0 this season when rushing for at least 200 yards, but just 1-2 when rushing for less than 200.
Play of the game
Jeremy Ebert’s 81-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter: The momentum was on Nebraska’s side after Tim Marlowe caught a 15-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to bring the Huskers to within four points. But with 12 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Ebert got open in the middle of the Husker secondary, caught a perfect pass from backup quarterback Kain Colter and outran the NU defense to increase Northwestern’s lead to 21-10. The play swung the momentum back to the Wildcats, and the Huskers never recovered.
Marlowe’s touchdown catch in the third quarter was the first of his career. The junior finished the game with four grabs for 44 yards.
— By Josh Kaufman