EVANSTON, Ill. — Coach Mike Riley was clearly frustrated with one of the two goal-line fumbles that resulted in Northwestern touchbacks.
Riley said running back Terrell Newby, who dropped the ball at the 1-yard line at the end of a 49-yard run, needed to do something else with the ball other than try to stretch it across the goal line with one hand while leaping for the pylon.
“There’s no need whatsoever to do that with the football,” Riley said after the Huskers’ 24-13 win. “You put the ball at risk. It’s going to be first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line.
“There’s no need for that whatsoever. We’ll take our chances with that.”
On Devine Ozigbo’s fumble into the end zone, Riley said he was hoping that Ozigbo’s forward progress had been stopped — and referees had ruled him down — before Northwestern players dislodged the ball.
“When they reviewed it, they could have actually overturned it because of that, but they obviously didn’t do that,” Riley said. “But that’s just a matter of you have to secure the football through the play. Don’t put any doubt in people’s minds.”
Three Huskers protest
Three Huskers knelt during the national anthem before Saturday’s game.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Mohamed Barry, senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey and redshirt freshman defensive end DaiShon Neal all took a knee and locked arms.
They are following other protests during the anthem before football games in response to a series of police shootings of African-Americans nationwide. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first player to take a knee during the anthem, and several players and teams have followed suit with similar displays.
Rose-Ivey has been particularly outspoken about the topic on Twitter.
Two Lincoln Southeast players have knelt during the anthem before every game this season. Former Omaha University quarterback Marlin Briscoe, the first black player to start at that position in the NFL, also commented on the matter earlier this week.
Four other Huskers — junior kicker Drew Brown, sophomore wide receiver Zack Darlington, senior offensive lineman Sam Hahn and sophomore offensive lineman Nick Gates — helped hold a big American flag on the field during the pregame festivities.
Just a snap shot
A center can have a perfect week in practice snapping the ball, but one mistake during the game is all it takes for a guy to start questioning something that is supposed to be routine.
Dylan Utter didn’t want to let it come to that Saturday.
The senior from Papillion-La Vista snapped one over Tommy Armstrong’s head in the first quarter — which resulted in an 11-yard loss and spoiled a drive. One snap appeared to bounce off Utter’s thigh a few possessions later. A couple others were a little erratic.
“I tried not to think about it too much,” he said. “It’s kind of like a pitcher who throws a couple balls in a row. You have to have that one-play, wipe-it mentality.”
Utter, starting at center this year for the first time in his career, had cleaner snaps in the second half.
“You go through the whole week of practice, and you don’t have those,” Utter said. “But sometimes, it happens. You’ve just got to wipe it away.”
Northwestern was trying to re-take the lead coming out of halftime when it moved the ball to the Nebraska 23-yard line.
But quarterback Clayton Thorson sailed a throw for Macan Wilson on a post route, safety Aaron Williams made a diving interception and the Huskers forced another turnover.
Nebraska has nine interceptions through four games after getting another from Joshua Kalu in the final minutes. A year ago, NU had 10 interceptions in 13 games, and was minus-12 in turnover margin.
“As a defense, that’s just one of our goals every time we step on the field, to get the ball back for the offense to score points,” safety Nate Gerry said. “And I think us making plays in practices has transferred over to the games.”
Aaron Williams, Kieron Williams, Gerry and Chris Jones all have two interceptions this season.
Thorson on the run vs. Huskers
There’s something about playing Nebraska that brings out the runner in Thorson. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore from Wheaton, Illinois, rushed for his first touchdown Saturday since he did the same last year against the Huskers.
Thorson’s 42-yard run was his longest since a 68-yard score against the Huskers on Oct. 24, 2015.
“There was a nice cut block and after I got past that there was no one there,” Thorson said.