Nebraska coach Mike Riley

Nebraska coach Mike Riley reacts after Northwestern recovered Devine Ozigbo’s fumble in the second quarter. The turnover was the second of two Husker giveaways near the Northwestern goal line, enabling the Wildcats to hang within three points through the first half.

World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers' 24-13 win over Northwestern on Saturday.

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Tracking the offense

The game plan

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 adjustments

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.

NU star

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.

Stat of the game

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.

Final word

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.

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Tracking the defense

The game plan

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 adjustments

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.

NU star

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.

Stat of the game

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.

Final word

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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