3 takeaways from Nebraska's gut-check win vs. Northwestern
Nebraska resumed play off a bye week against Northwestern. It was a hard-fought affair the entire 60 minutes with the Huskers overcoming some early miscues in the game.
Northwestern entered the game with backup quarterback Brendan Sullivan making the start in place of Ben Bryant, but it did not hold the Wildcats back from keeping things close. A lot of that had to do with Northwestern’s defense and Nebraska’s miscues into the second half.
With that being said, here are the key takeaways from Saturday’s game:
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Heinrich Haarberg shakes off struggles to rally Nebraska
Earlier in the week, head coach Matt Rhule tabbed Haarberg as the team’s starting QB moving forward. Week 1 starter Jeff Sims has been injured since the Colorado game but Rhule acknowledged Haarberg had been playing well and deserved the shot.
Despite his earlier success, Haarberg started Week 8 on the wrong foot. He threw an interception on the very first play of the game and went 3-and-out on the ensuing possession. In his 3rd drive of the game, Haarberg was once again intercepted.
Fortunately, the QB would settle in. He would lead a 9-play drive into field goal range and later led a clinical 10-play drive with the first half winding down. He plunged across for a 3-yard touchdown run to give the Huskers a 10-6 lead at the break.
Haarberg would later find Malachi Coleman for a huge shot down the field as the QB finished 8-for-17 for 85 yards and a touchdown to go with the 2 interceptions. He also added 72 rushing yards to his credit in the 17-9 win.
Huskers find big-play threat to stretch the field
For much of the early part of the season, Nebraska has been looking for a big-play receiver that can stretch things down the field. It looks like the Huskers have found that performer in Malachi Coleman.
The 6-foot-4 freshman finished the game with just 1 catch but it was a crucial one. It went for 44 yards over the top of the defense and led to the receiver’s first touchdown of his career.
Nebraska has shown an ability to get yards on the ground and find enough underneath throws to Thomas Fidone II and Billy Kemp IV. A player like Coleman to keep defenses honest with the deep ball will help open things up for the offense.
Nebraska’s defensive front continues to shine
The strength of these Huskers has been upfront on defense, and that has not changed out of the bye week. Nebraska produced 8 sacks and 13 TFLs in the win, pushing Northwestern behind the sticks time and time again.
At least 7 Huskers registered a partial sack in the win, led by Nash Hutmacher with 1.5 sacks and 1.5 TFL. Luke Reimer and Princewill Umanmielen also delivered 1.5 TFLs apiece.
As a result of that performance, Northwestern was forced into a number of undesirable 3rd-down distances. The Wildcats went just 3-for-15 on those conversions.