Austin Allen

Austin Allen celebrates after recovering a blocked punt, one of two the Huskers had Saturday.

LINCOLN — The first night game inside Memorial Stadium in almost two years saw two blocked punts, three blocked field goals, a safety, 60-yard runs from two different Husker running backs and a botched onside kick.

Nebraska won handily 44-8.

The Husker offense found some rhythm for the first time this season, out-gaining NIU 525 to 350.

Adrian Martinez finished 16 for 27 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. He added 44 yards and one score on the ground. Running back Maurice Washington scored twice — once on a 60-yard run and again on a 21-yard shovel pass from Martinez. Dedrick Mills led the team in rushinG with 116 yards on 11 carries.

Nine different receivers caught passes for Nebraska on Saturday. Spielman led with four catches for 76 yards.

Nebraska’s offense averaged 11.2 yards per play in the first half, and 8.1 for the game.

The Blackshirts kept NIU out of the end zone and to just 2.3 yards per rush. Quarterback Ross Bowers threw for 248 yards.

Nebraska is now 2-1 on the year and will travel to Illinois next week. The Illini (2-1) lost to Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

A 36-yard field goal from Isaac Armstrong gave NU a 3-0 lead on the opening drive. Mills scampered down the sideline for a 61-yard run on the next possession, but coughed up a fumble the very next play.

Walk-on Isaiah Stalbird started what would be a wild series of special teams plays in the first. He blocked a punt — recovered by Austin Allen at the 21 to give NU the ball back. Washington juked three Huskies and walked into the end zone on the next play for a 10-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first quarter.

NIU later faked a punt, which was sniffed out by Allen. Nebraska’s ensuing 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked and recovered by Northern Illinois at midfield.

After a 60-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Washington, the extra point was blocked, so NU took a 16-0 lead.

The Huskies responded with an eight-play drive that ended in a 45-yard field goal to cut the lead to 13. Nebraska counter-punched with a four-play drive capped off by a 24-yard touchdown from Mills to push it back to 23-3.

The second blocked punt — again by Stalbird — came with 6:20 left in the second. Nebraska took over at the NIU 14. The Huskies responded by blocking another Armstrong field-goal attempt.

Backed up against their own end zone, Martinez threw a swing pass to Washington, who was tackled for a safety to make it 23-5.

Three straight completions by Martinez — to JD Spielman, then Wan’Dale Robinson — put Nebraska at the NIU 27 with 11 seconds left. He found Cal transfer Kanawai Noa in the end zone with five seconds left for a 30-5 halftime lead.

The second half was much more tame.

A 28-yard connection from Bowers to Danie Crawford on fourth-and-8 kept the Huskies first second-half drive alive and put the ball at first-and-goal. A 14-yard sack from Carlos Davis forced a field goal, which John Richardson hit from 27 yards to make the score 30-8.

A 27-yard pass to Jack Stoll from Martinez put NU down in the red zone. Stoll fumbled but Allen recovered the loose ball (his third recovery of the night.) Martinez finished off the drive with a nifty 10-yard run for a 37-8 lead.

Northern Illinois drove to the 1-yard line, but Damion Daniels stuffed the ball-carrier at the goal line on third down, then walk-on Eli Sullivan broke up a pass on fourth down.

Reserves came in for most of the fourth. Redshirt freshman Braxton Clark picked off a pass to give NU another shot at the end zone late. Quarterback Noah Vedral took snaps for the first time this season, completing a pass to freshman Darien Chase, who got the first reception of his career. Vedral finished off the drive with the second-teamers with a 3-yard run to push the lead to 44-8.

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