By Jack Blackstone
In a gritty first half affair, some of the Northwestern defense we knew from the first few weeks of the season seems to have returned, as the Wildcats lead Nebraska 17-12. Here are some key notes from the first half in Lincoln.
It was a strange half for Northwestern, who looked absolutely lifeless offensively for the vast majority of the first two quarters, bar two long runs from quarterback Clayton Thorson for 68 and 49 yards respectively. Both landed the Wildcats deep in the redzone and led to a short TD and a field goal. Besides those two runs, the offense gained 22 total yards. Justin Jackson was limited to 4 yards on 4 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, Northwestern has been solid thus far, and even though they allowed 212 yards of offense to Nebraska in the first half, they only allowed a field goal and a late touchdown. The bend but don’t break Fitzgerald defense certainly doesn’t look completely lost and overmatched as they did in the previous two weeks.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. had a mixed bag in the first half going 14-26 for 154 yards with 1 TD as well as 1 interception. He struggled to get his feet set at times, making one critical mistake in lofting an easy ball to the sideline for Nick Vanhoose to intercept and return for a 72 yard touchdown.
Mistakes also cost Northwestern some points when in the first quarter senior Miles Shuler made a fair catch on a punt at the 3 yard line. With little space to operate, Thorson was sacked in the endzone for a safety on the next play.
Nebraska have seemed to be the more physical team, running the ball with power between the tackles. Terrell Newby rushed 11 times for 46 yards and was also targeted several times out of the backfield by Armstrong.
Nebraska scored their touchdown late in the half to narrow Northwestern’s lead to 14-12, but the Wildcats managed to suck out some of the momentum from the stadium by getting a field goal as time expired. The Wildcats will certainly be looking to improve offensively in the second half, while Nebraska will go into the third quarter believing they should be winning this game and looking to capitalize on any opportunities.