Instead of yet another week tearing into Bo Pellini and his problems with the Nebraska faithful, the Cornhuskers continue forward in a completely different mood, as a miracle catch by Jordan Westerkamp off a tipped pass from Ron Kellogg III changed the atmosphere in Memorial Stadium from depression to elation as time expired.
That’s about the only good thing Nebraska (winning 27-24) have to take from a game that might put them back in the top 25 picture, but doesn’t do much for their aspirations to retain their status as a national powerhouse. It might return someday, but right now the Huskers have to worry about a tough finish that sees them playing in Michigan, against Michigan State and at Penn State before ending the season against Iowa.
Nebraska, who were coming off their second loss of the season (this time to Minnesota) scored first through a Tommy Armstrong run, but soon fell behind as their run defense collapsed against the Northwestern pressure. The Wildcats are a very specific team in what they do, which is run the ball. They finished with 245 yards on 47 carries, including 149 yards and 3 touchdowns by Treyvon Green, scoring all those touchdowns consecutively to put Northwestern 21-7 up.
From there it was a cat and mouse game. Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw three interceptions for Nerbaska, which eventually got him benched and Kellogg got his change. He threw one interceptions as well, but his touchdown pass to Westerkamp as time expired more than made up for him being an inexperienced third stringer that wasn’t likely to have a big effect on the game.
Ameer Abdullah had another strong performance on the ground, slightly making up for Taylor Martinez not playing. The running back didn’t score a touchdown, but he did finish with 127 yards on 24 carries. There was also Avery Moss, returning an interceptions for 25 yards off a very bad Trevor Siemian pass, which capped off a terrible throwing day for Northwestern, completing 8-of-21 passes for 81 yards, none of them going for a touchdown.
In any case, Westerkamp was the hero, the very unlikely hero of the game. The fresham is usually a punt returner with only 10 career receptions before the game. He never caught a pass that went longer than 25 yards, before grabbing that 49-yard hail mary pass, finishing the game with 104 yards on 4 receptions.
Nebraska haven’t been able to play very smoothly on offense this season, but Northwestern were terrible after taking the 21-7 lead. They had 11 possessions after going up by two touchdowns, punting the ball 10 times.
Nebraska are second behind Michigan State in the Legends division at 3-1, needing win over Michigan State and probably more than that to win the division for a second consecutive season.
I hope it keeps them believing, keeps them up. I’m going to stick with the way it went today. We’re going to need that type of energy going into Michigan. It’s about attitude. It’s about character. Whether we caught that ball or didn’t catch that ball, we’re still the same team tomorrow.