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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Northwestern vs. Nebraska, 11/4/17

Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo (22) tries to get past Northwestern safety Kyle Queiro (21) during a game last season.


Nebraska picked up two first downs with fourth-and-1 runs on its first touchdown drive as the line got some good push. Also, JD Spielman's 40-yard burst on a jet sweep sparked the Huskers in the second quarter. Although there was ample inconsistency (as usual), the Huskers showed patience and ended up with 112 rushing yards against the nation's 17th-ranked rush defense.


Tanner Lee struggled in the first half, as he twice was intercepted by senior safety Kyle Queiro. The good news for NU: Neither pick led to points. Lee, though, was picked off a third time, this time by safety Godwin Igwebuike, as the Huskers tried to gain control early in the fourth quarter. Bottom line, Lee was a leading reason NU couldn't close out the visitors.


Justin Jackson showed immediately that he was on top of his game, finishing the Wildcats' opening touchdown drive with a 17-yard run. Northwestern's second TD came on Jeremy Larkin's 24-yard run. You won't see many run plays defended worse than Larkin's sprint to the end zone. He started right before cutting left across the defense almost untouched into the end zone. The Wildcats finished with 232 yards on the ground (5.2 ypc).


Nebraska linebacker Marcus Newby's pick six early in the third quarter gave his team a 21-17 lead. Safety Joshua Kalu also came up with a big interception as Northwestern threatened to go up 14-0 in the first quarter. The Blackshirts never once sacked Clayton Thorson, and some busted coverage allowed Macan Wilson to break wide-open into the secondary for a 28-yard second-quarter gain. In the final analysis, it must be said Thorson misfired to several open receivers.


Northwestern established an early edge in this area with strong kickoff coverage as well as Riley Lees' 36-yard kickoff return to end the first quarter. Nebraska sophomore Caleb Lightbourn was booming punts even into the wind, and his 31-yard shot that pinned Northwestern at its 9 in the final minute was critical.


We liked the idea of lining up fullback Luke McNitt as a tight end and running toward his side, as Mikale Wilbon did while picking up 2 yards on a fourth-and-1. But Danny Langsdorf was awfully conservative with some red-zone play calls late in the third quarter as Nebraska settled for a field goal to cap an 18-play drive.


Khalil Davis' offside penalty erased Ben Stille's second-quarter sack, and Lamar Jackson's defensive holding extended a Northwestern drive to a field goal. Jackson also was flagged for hands to the face early in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Collin Miller's block in the back on JD Spielman's kickoff return pinned NU at its 7 to begin its drive with 5:24 remaining. There was some questionable clock management by both coaches in final minutes of the first half.


The fact Nebraska got to overtime keeps this from being a "D." But the Huskers' inability to close out the win is yet another sign that Mike Riley's tenure at NU is likely near its end.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


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