Last 3 Nebraska-Northwestern games tight affairs
Oct. 13, 2014
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — In terms of entertainment value, nothing in the Big Ten has topped the Nebraska-Northwestern series since the Cornhuskers joined the conference in 2011.
All three games have been decided by a total of seven points, with the Huskers winning two. Another frantic finish just might be in store when No. 19 Nebraska takes on the Wildcats on Saturday night in Evanston, Illinois.
"They've been kind of strange games to say the least," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Monday. "They're a well-coached football team that plays hard and is sound in what they do, and they make you earn everything you get."
A little luck helped the Huskers win 27-24 in Lincoln last year, when Jordan Westerkamp snagged Ron Kellogg III's tipped desperation heave to the end zone on the final play, which was set up by Ameer Abdullah's 16-yard run on a fourth-and-15.
"What do I remember about the Hail Mary?" Pelini said. "I remember thinking we shouldn't be in this situation, but we are, and we're very fortunate to come out of it with a win."
In 2012, the Huskers rallied from 12 down in Evanston to match the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in school history and won 29-28. A year earlier, Northwestern came to Lincoln a 17-point underdog and beat the ninth-ranked Huskers 28-25.
This week's game has major implications in the Big Ten West. The Huskers (5-1, 1-1) had an open date last week after losing 27-22 at Michigan State on Oct. 4. The Wildcats (3-3, 2-1) lost 24-17 to Minnesota on Saturday despite dominating the statistics sheet.
"Going into the second half of the season, all the goals we set preseason are out there for us if we take care of business each week," Nebraska safety Corey Cooper said.
The Huskers are trying to get to the Big Ten championship game for the second time in three years and win their first conference title since 1999.
"The competition is open," Westerkamp said. "We're going to bring everything we've got to the table. ... It's just another opportunity to show the conference we believe we're the best."
Pelini said the bye week was timely and allowed injured Huskers to heal, notably linebackers David Santos and Marcus Newby, cornerback Daniel Davie and receivers Kenny Bell and Brandon Reilly. Pelini said there's a "good chance" Santos will be available after missing two games, and the others will be back.
Last week's practices emphasized fundamentals and individual work over preparation for Northwestern, Pelini said.
Nebraska managed only 47 yards rushing against Michigan State, the fewest since a loss to Southern California in 2007, and allowed five sacks.
Though the offensive line was criticized for being dominated by Michigan State's defensive front, Pelini said many of those problems were self-inflicted.
"I'm not taking anything away from what your opponents do, but a lot of times you've got to take care of yourself," Pelini said. "If somebody whips you, beats you, good for them. But you can't do it to yourself."