The Nebraska Cornhuskers lost to the Northwestern Wildcats, 31-24, Saturday afternoon. While Tanner Lee threw for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns, his 3 interceptions proved to be costly.
What it means
Nebraska’s loss to Northwestern is a tough one. A win would have meant the Huskers needed only one more win to be bowl eligible. Now the Huskers have to win two of the remaining three, which includes trips to Minnesota and Penn State and a matchup with Iowa at home. And with so much speculation surrounding coach Mike Riley’s job security, the loss didn’t help that situation much.
The Huskers are in a difficult position going forward, and it’s hard to predict what will happen any given week. And in a game when plenty went right, enough went wrong to be more than disappointing.
3 things we learned
1. Lee’s interceptions sting, but offense had its moments
Lee threw 3 interceptions after things had been looking up on that front prior to this matchup, seeing as he hadn’t thrown a pick since the Wisconsin matchup on Oct. 7. However, the interceptions returned against the Wildcats.
Lee’s interceptions likely will define the day in some ways, but he and the Nebraska offense found ways to keep the interceptions from bringing the day to a halt. In fact, Nebraska had plenty of key contributors step up. That included redshirt freshman wide receiver JD Spielman, redshirt freshman tight end Jack Stoll and junior wide receiver Bryan Reimers, to name a few.
Spielman continued to highlight how special he can be as a player with his 40-yard rush in the second quarter. Stoll then followed with a 32-yard catch from Lee for his first career touchdown.
To illustrate how resilient this offense was at times against Northwestern, the Huskers’ scoring drive late in the third quarter boasted these stats:
- 18 plays: Longest of season
- 79 yards: eighth-longest of season
- 9:24: Longest of season.
Despite the hiccups from Lee, this highlighted an overall improvement from the Nebraska offense in key areas.
2. Career days for Marcus Newby and Chris Weber
Talk about a career day for outside linebacker Marcus Newby. He shined on defense, which quickly caught the attention of former teammate Brandon Reilly.
Marcus is havin himself a game! 🤘🏼
— B. Reilly (@brandonreilly87) November 4, 2017
Newby had 10 total tackles, including 8 solo stops. He also had an interception that he returned for a touchdown to put Nebraska ahead 21-17, and a pass breakup.
Another player who shined on defense despite the loss was inside linebacker Chris Weber. He had 11 tackles, with 6 solo stops. He also had a tackle for loss.
Weber walked off the field under his own power after suffering an injury early in overtime.
These two were bright spots for the Blackshirts against the Wildcats.
3. Nebraska can run the ball
If you’re a fan of running the football, this one is for you. Against Northwestern, Nebraska showed that it can run effectively enough against a team that was supposed to make it difficult. Why does this matter? Well, a quick look back at the Purdue matchup shows why.
Against the Boilermakers, Nebraska had 40 rushing yards. Against Northwestern, though? The Huskers had 112.
Riley addressed the problem post-Purdue, saying he and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf spoke quite a bit about what to do.
“We certainly never intended it to be like this with the running stats,” Riley said earlier in the week. “We’re going to continue to try to strive to be that team, and then do what we need to do to win the game.”
Against Northwestern, Nebraska seemed to figure it out, despite the game resulting in a loss.
Nebraska faces Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday, Nov. 11, with kickoff set for noon ET. The game will be broadcast on FS1.