Nebraska and Northwestern will vie for their first conference victory of the season when the Big Ten West rivals meet in Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday night.
The Cornhuskers (2-3, 0-2) are coming off a heartbreaking 23-20 overtime loss at Michigan State. Nebraska led by seven late in the fourth quarter before allowing a punt return for a touchdown before turning the ball over in overtime.
The Cornhuskers’ three losses this season, all on the road, have been by a combined 18 points — including 23-16 at then-No. 3 Oklahoma on Sept. 18.
“Right now we’re a good team that’s lost some games,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “Now we have to get over that hurdle.”
A key to that will be improving the offensive line, as quarterback Adrian Martinez was sacked seven times versus the Spartans.
Nebraska has allowed 18 sacks in five games after yielding only 16 in eight games in 2020.
“I don’t want to see running backs take the ball and have a wall of (defenders) in front of them,” Frost said.
Northwestern (2-2, 0-1) rushed for a season-best 373 yards in a 35-6 win against Ohio last Saturday. The bulk of that yardage came from sophomore Evan Hull, who ran for 216 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard scoring run that helped him earn Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors.
The Wildcats will be hard-pressed to move the ball on the ground that easily this time. Nebraska held Michigan State to 71 yards on 30 carries after the Spartans entered averaging 263.7 per game, including 326 in a season-opening 38-21 win over Northwestern.
That means Northwestern quarterback Ryan Hilinski, a transfer from South Carolina who made his first start against Ohio, may be asked to do more. Hilinski was 12 of 20 for 88 yards against the Bobcats.
“We’re going to do what we have to do to win,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I think this is an incredibly improved Nebraska team. Defensively, they’re playing at an incredibly high level.”
–Field Level Media