Nebraska put together another losing effort yesterday, but even that was unable to derail Northwestern from finding a way to lose a game late. The game-winning Hail Mary pass was another meltdown by the Wildcats, and masked for some Cornhusker fans the fact that, until the last play of this game, Nebraska lost this game.
Once again, the Nebraska run defense was putrid. The Wildcats totaled 245 rushing yards on 47 attempts, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Northwestern’s Treyvon Green ran for three touchdowns on the Cornhuskers.
The Cornhuskers were once again on the wrong side of the turnovers, finishing the game minus three in the turnover margin, as quarterbacks Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong Jr. combined for four interceptions.
The combination of bad run defense and turnovers have led to Nebraska’s two losses against UCLA and at Minnesota. In those two games, the Cornhuskers allowed 481 rushing yards, five touchdown runs, and turned the ball over three times.
Northwestern found a way to lose yesterday’s game, despite the emergence of these trends for Nebraska. This was the Wildcats’ fifth consecutive loss, and four of those have come in the fourth quarter or overtime. It could easily be argued that if Nebraska’s performance had come against a team that isn’t as emotionally deflated as Northwestern is, the game would have been Nebraska’s third loss of the season.
That third loss of the season could easily come next week in Ann Arbor against the University of Michigan if the running defense and giveaways don’t improve. Loss No. 4 might follow that, as the Michigan State Spartans come into Lincoln the following week. By the time the game at Penn State comes in three weeks, the Cornhuskers could already find themselves out of contention to defend their Big Ten Legends division.
If Nebraska can find a way to improve these two aspects of its game, then it still has a shot to get back to the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. The Cornhuskers can’t play this quality of a game and depend on a last second collapse by their opponents to win.