Between the crushing injuries and close losses, Northwestern has had its share of bad breaks in recent weeks.
Then Jordan Westerkamp happened.
The Wildcats were in position to snap their string of four straight Big Ten losses before Nebraska’s last-second Hail Mary sent them home with a 27-24 loss and all-too-familiar heartbreak.
“There are no words to describe it, honestly,” said Northwestern running back Treyvon Green, who had 149 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. “It happened so fast and you would think that’d be the last thing to happen on that play.”
His comments echoed what the Wildcats felt in the locker room after the game, as they tried to come to grips with the loss. One that seemed unlikely, at best, when Nebraska snapped the ball with just four seconds left.
“A lot of people just want to be alone at this moment so they can process what just happened,” Green said. “I’m still processing it myself.”
Northwestern was in control after starting quarterback Kain Colter orchestrated two touchdown drives on the Wildcats’ first two possessions of the game.
It looked like 2011 all over again, as the senior scrambled, spun and twisted his way through the Nebraska defense much like he did when the Wildcats upset then-No. 9 Nebraska in Lincoln two years ago.
Green then scampered into the end zone from 10 yards to put Northwestern up 21-7 and in total control.
The Wildcat offense sputtered after the promising start, though, as Colter was surprisingly moved from quarterback to wide receiver and backup Trevor Siemian struggled at QB. Northwestern punted on each of its last three possessions of the first half.
“We wanted balance with those two guys,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said of his two-quarterback system. “We wanted to keep their defense off-balance and we had some throws that we thought we could take advantage of. At times we did, other times we didn’t.”
Siemian completed just 2 of his 7 attempts in the first half.
The Wildcats' struggles continued, as they managed just 94 yards in the second half and punted on seven of their nine drives.
It didn’t help that Northwestern, which was already thin at running back with Venric Mark, Mike Trumpy and Warren Long all not playing, saw Stephen Buckley suffer a serious leg injury early in the game. Buckley was taken to a hospital, but the details of his injury were not available after the game.
Green also missed time in the second half after hurting his right leg, but the junior came back a few plays later and played the rest of the game.
“(Nebraska is) pretty good,” Fitzgerald said of his offense’s second-half struggles. “They did a nice job adjusting and we got pretty beat up. We were losing guys left and right, but our guys just kept on battling.”
As for the final play, Fitzgerald said his team has practiced for a Hail Mary situation every Thursday since the beginning of fall camp.
“We’ve probably worked that play 20 times and we didn’t execute it, which is disappointing,” he said.
Even so, Fitzgerald struggled to come up with words to describe the play, as his team’s chances of becoming eligible for a sixth straight bowl appearance suffered yet another blow.
“I feel for our guys,” he said. “They fought and scratched and clawed.”