Lincoln - Jordan Westerkamp's 49-yard touchdown catch on a Hail Mary heave from Ron Kellogg III gave Nebraska a 27-24 walk-off win in one of the most dramatic games in Memorial Stadium history on Saturday.
In a game ruled for the final two-and-half quarters by the defenses, Kellogg led the Huskers 83 yards in the final 1:14, capped by his heroic toss to Westerkamp as time expired. It is believed to be the first Hail Mary, walk-off win in regulation in Husker history, and it sent the 91,140 fans in the NCAA-record 331st consecutive sellout in Memorial Stadium into a frenzy.
Westerkamp, who hauled in his career-high fourth catch for his first career touchdown after the ball was deflected in a group of Nebraska and Northwestern players in the end zone, finished with his first career 100-yard game.
The thrilling come-from-behind victory made Nebraska bowl eligible, as the Huskers improved to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten. The Big Red handed the Wildcats their fifth consecutive loss, as Northwestern slipped to 4-5 overall and 0-5 in the Big Ten. It also marked the second straight season that Nebraska rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the Wildcats.
Nebraska improved to 4-0 with redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. as a starter, including 3-0 in the Big Ten. However, after Armstrong capped an eight-play, 76-yard march on the game's opening drive with his five-yard touchdown run, Northwestern took control of the game.
The Wildcats' Treyvon Green scored three consecutive touchdowns over the next 16 minutes, as Northwestern took a 21-7 lead with 11:07 left in the first half.
Armstrong rallied the Huskers midway through the second quarter, engineering an 11-play, 77-yard drive capped by a three-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Enunwa. It was Enunwa's team-leading eighth touchdown catch of the season. He led the Huskers with six catches for 67 yards on the afternoon.
Northwestern took a 21-14 lead into the halftime locker room, and neither offense could get untracked in the third quarter.
Nebraska's Blackshirts made the biggest play of the third quarter, as redshirt freshman defensive end Avery Moss reached high into the sky for an interception, then rumbled 25 yards for a pick-six touchdown. Moss' first career interception and touchdown sent the game to the fourth quarter tied at 21.
The defenses continued to dominate in the fourth, until Northwestern defensive lineman Tyler Scott intercepted an Armstrong pass at the Husker 36 and returned 29 yards to the Nebraska 7 with 2:25 left.
After Northwestern's Kain Colter gained six yards on the first play of the ensuing drive, the Blackshirt defense stiffened, throwing Wildcats for losses on the next two plays to force a 21-yard Jeff Budzien field goal with 1:20 left. Budzien's field goal gave Northwestern a 24-21 lead, but the Big Red still had hope for victory.
Kellogg, who was unsuccessful in leading the Huskers to points on his previous drives in the game, opened the final drive with back-to-back completions to Ameer Abdullah. But an incompletion and a sack left the Huskers with 4th-and-15 from their own 24. After scrambling, Kellogg found Abdullah again, who made a few moves and finished the catch by lunging for a first down to convert.
Abdullah finished with three catches for 31 yards, all on the game's final drive. The junior I-back from Homewood, Ala., also led the Huskers with 127 rushing yards on 24 carries for his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season. He also pushed his season rushing total to 1,108 yards for his second straight 1,000-yard season.
Abdullah also contributed 39 yards on a pair of kickoff returns to finish with 197 all-purpose yards on the day.
With Husker regular receivers Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner on the sideline with injuries, Sam Burth added a pair of key receptions on Nebraska's final drive. Burtch finished the day with three catches for 20 yards, including back-to-back catches for 11 yards to put the Huskers in position for the game-winning connection.
Alonzo Moore added a career receiving day of his with five catches for 55 yards for the Huskers.
Kellogg finished the game 7-of-13 passing for 104 yards. He was sacked twice and threw a first-half interception that led to Northwestern third touchdown of the half.
Armstrong went 15-of-29 through the air for a career-high 173 yards. He was also sacked twice and threw three interceptions. He added a career-high 69 rushing yards on 17 carries to account for 242 yards of total offense.
For the game, Nebraska produced 472 yards of total offense, including 277 passing and 195 on the ground. Northwestern managed 326 yards of total offense, including just 81 passing and 245 rushing. Green led the Wildcats with 149 yards on 19 carries, while Colter pitched in 86 yards on 23 carries. He was also sacked three times.
Nebraska's Blackshirts notched four sacks on the day among their 10 tackles for 54 yards lost. Senior defensive back Ciante Evans led the Huskers with a career-high five tackles for 23 yards lost, including a sack, among his team-leading eight tackles on the afternoon. Safety Corey Cooper added seven tackles, including a sack, while linebacker David Santos contributed six stops.
The Wildcats produced nine tackles for loss, including four sacks of their own. Damien Proby and Ibraheim Campbell each recorded 10 stops.
Nebraska returns to Big Ten road action next Saturday when the Huskers travel to Ann Arbor to battle Michigan. Kickoff between Nebraska and the Wolverines is set for 2:30 p.m. with television coverage provided by ABC/ESPN.
Final: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24
Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (NU, 14-7)
NEB - 12:09 - Tommy Armstrong Jr. 5 run (Pat Smith kick), 8 plays, 76 yards, 2:46 - NEB 7-0
NU - 6:56 - Kain Colter 1 run (Jeff Budzien kick), 12 plays, 75 yards, 5:13 - 7-7
NU - 2:35 - Treyvon Green 4 run (Budzien kick), 6 plays, 75 yards, 2:10 - NU 14-7
Second Quarter (NU, 21-14)
NU - 11:07 - Green 10 run (Budzien kick) - 2 plays, 38 yards, 0:19, NU 21-7
NEB - 6:37 - Quincy Enunwa 3 pass (Smith kick) - 11 plays, 77 yards, 4:23, NU 21-14
Third Quarter (21-21)
NEB - 7:10 - Avery Moss 25 INT return (Smith kick) - 21-21
Fourth Quarter (NEB, 27-24)
NU - 1:20 - Budzien 21 FG - 4 plays, 3 yards, 1:05, NU 24-21
NEB - 0:00 - Jordan Westerkamp 49 pass from Ron Kellogg III (no kick) - 9 plays, 83 yards, 1:14, NEB 27-24
Final: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24
Time of Game: 3:39
Game Start: 2:42 p.m. (central)