Tracking the offense
Nebraska made it look easy on its first three snaps. A quick throw, a quarterback keeper and a big gainer by Terrell Newby (he fumbled into the end zone for a touchback on the play). The running lanes weren’t as wide open from that point on, though. The Huskers, often lined up in their bigger personnel packages, looked like they wanted to pound the Wildcats straight up the gut. It didn’t always work. But Nebraska, after numerous short throws, cleverly went deep in an effort to stretch Northwestern vertically.
The Huskers had success with nearly every quarterback run play they called — from the start. So Tommy Armstrong’s legs ended up providing a jolt at various points when little else was reliable. Nebraska never did seem to find consistent running room between the tackles — until the end. The Huskers beat Northwestern to the edge with a couple reverses in the second half, too. And Armstrong made just enough key throws, particularly on third down.
Tommy Armstrong. He completed 18 of his 29 passes for 246 yards. He ran for a team- and career-high 132 yards on 13 attempts.
556 total yards. The offense moved the ball up and down the field, something it’s not always done against a well-coached and schematically sound Northwestern defense.
A little sloppy to start, but the Huskers’ talent eventually won them the game. Just too much firepower. Those playmakers will be tough for the Big Ten West Division teams to match.
Tracking the defense
Northwestern’s objectives seemed clear. Get the ball to stud running back Justin Jackson as much as possible. And the Huskers were mostly ready for it. They did have moments when they were sloppy tacklers, and they appeared to be a bit stunned by the Wildcats’ up-tempo pace during one stretch. Northwestern used a perfectly designed quarterback lead play to score its lone first-half touchdown. But Nebraska did a decent job of limiting most everything else.
The Huskers didn’t give up any more chunk plays on the ground to Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson. He galloped through Nebraska’s defense twice last year — and once more before halftime Saturday. But the Huskers kept him in check after that. Nebraska did have trouble containing slot receiver Austin Carr, who caught a couple long throws over the middle. But in the end, the Huskers were stingy when they had to be.
Kevin Maurice. The senior defensive tackle is a workhorse, even if the stats don’t show it. He had back-to-back sacks just before halftime.
Northwestern converted just five of its 14 third-down attempts. The Wildcats weren’t going to have lots of explosive plays. They needed long drives, and those regularly stalled out.
Two interceptions ended two separate Northwestern possessions. Those plays kept the momentum on Nebraska’s sideline — and they should give an already confident secondary group more evidence that it has made significant progress.
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Nebraska running back Terrell Newby and teammates celebrate a touchdown in the second quarter.
Nebraska's Sam Hahn helps hold the flag before the game because it was starting to fall to the ground.
Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson runs through the Nebraska defense as Marcus Newby, No. 3, and Ross Dzuris fail to bring him down.
Nebraska's running back Devine Ozigbo (22), fumbles the ball in the end zone which was recovered by Northwestern for a touchback with 3:24 left in the second quarter during the game against Northwestern on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. MEGAN FARMER/THE WORLD-HERALD
Nebraska coach Mike Riley reacts to Northwestern recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
Northwestern kicker Matt Micucci is tackled on a fake kick in the second quarter.
Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson celebrates his long touchdown run.
Nebraska's Terrell Newby fumbles the ball as he tries to stretch across the goal line. The ball went out the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Gov. Pete Ricketts shows up for the game.
Five Northwestern defenders try to tackle Nebraska's Devine Ozigbo.
Tommy Armstrong looks for an open receiver.
Northwestern's Justin Jackson breaks into the Nebraska secondary.
Nebraska coach Mike Riley greets fans before the game.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald speaks with players.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong breaks off a run in the first quarter.
Clayton Thorson runs the ball past the Nebraska defense to score a touchdown.
Nebraska's Terrell Newby sprints toward the end zone on a long run during the Huskers' opening drive.
Nebraska's Joshua Kalu celebrates his interception that sealed the win near the end of the fourth quarter.
Nebraska's Nate Gerry and Mick Stoltenberg combine to sack Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson late in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. makes a throw on the move in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska offensive lineman Tanner Farmer is helped off the field. He didn't return to the game.
Nebraska's Joshua Kalu grabs an interception that sealed the win near the end of the fourth quarter.
Nebraska's Nick Gates celebrates with Husker fans following the win over Northwestern.
Nebraska's Mike Riley celebrates with Mick Stoltenberg following the Huskers' win over Northwestern.
Nebraska's Cethan Carter celebrates scoring a touchdown in the third quarter. The touchdown reception was his first of the season.
Nebraska's Brandon Reilly gains extra yards after a reception in the third quarter.
Nebraska's Cethan Carter hauls in a touchdown as Northwestern's Jared McGee defends in the third quarter.
Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo carries the ball in the first quarter.
Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp scores a touchdown in the third quarter.
Nebraska kicker Drew Brown holds the flag during the national anthem before the game against Northwestern.
Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp (1), celebrates with offensive lineman Corey Whitaker (58), left, after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter during the game on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. MEGAN FARMER/THE WORLD-HERALD
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Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp's mother, Kim Westerkamp, center, laughs while getting ready to participate in an 18-person Fireball shotski while tailgating before the Nebraska-Northwestern game Saturday in Evanston, Illinois.
Husker players check out the field condition before the Nebraska-Northwestern game Saturday.
Fans cheer as the Husker buses arrive for the Nebraska-Northwestern game Saturday.
Liam White, 11, and Austin White, 13, of Chicago, play corn hole before Nebraska played Northwestern on Saturday.
Nebraska safety Kieron Williams, center, and wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El, right, walk to the stadium before playing the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday.
Meg Roberts, center, welcomes Willie the Wildcat to their tailgate. Roberts is from Chicago, but she's a Husker fan because her husband, Royal Rarick, is from Omaha.
Husker fans and Wildcat fans walk around Ryan Field prior to the start of the football game.
Nebraska's De'Mornay Pierson-El, center, arrives for Saturday's game at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois.
Jack Westerkamp, center, a cousin of player Jordan Westerkamp, is a University of Illinois student who says he bleeds Husker red.
Husker fans get some shade before the Nebraska-Northwestern game Saturday.
Peter Nelson carries his son Elijah Nelson, 2, on his shoulders while walking to the stadium before the Nebraska-Northwestern game Saturday.
Fans cheer as the buses carrying the Husker football players arrive for the Nebraska-Northwestern game.
One Nebraska fan decorated their van with a few Husker flags outside Ryan Field on Saturday.
Husker fans relax under a tree prior to the start of the Nebraska-Northwestern game.
Lincoln's Kasi Abbenhaus wears her corn hat during a Nebraska-Northwestern pregame tailgate in Evanston, Illinois.
Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong arrives for the Nebraska-Northwestern game.
Wildcats fan Bill Green, left, and Husker fan Scott Belger, from Lincoln, play bean bag toss before the Nebraska-Northwestern game.
The extended Westerkamp family tailgate takes over a big section of the parking lot outside Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois, on Saturday.