Huskers Crush Cats in Second Half
Evanston, Ill. - No. 19 Nebraska needed no last-minute touchdown or Hail Mary this time. Instead, the Huskers got a dominant second-half defensive effort and a career-high four touchdowns from Ameer Abdullah in a 38-17 win at Ryan Field on Saturday night.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten, while Northwestern slipped to 3-4 and 2-2 in the conference. The Huskers clinched bowl eligibility for the seventh consecutive season under Coach Bo Pelini.
After being outyarded 262-227 in the first half, the Huskers dominated the second half 244-28 on Homecoming for the Wildcats in Evanston. Abdullah was limited to 39 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the first half, but exploded for 107 yards and three scores on 14 totes after halftime. The Heisman hopeful had 78 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone.
Abdullah, a senior I-back from Homewood, Ala., finished the night with 146 yards on 23 carries with four one-yard touchdown runs. It was his 22nd career 100-yard game and third against Northwestern.
He pushed his season total to 1,024 yards, becoming the first Husker in history to record three 1,000-yard rushing seasons in a career. He also crossed the 4,000-yard career rushing mark on the night, finishing with 4,001. Abdullah, who passed Ahman Green (3,880) at No. 2 on the Nebraska career rushing list, joined 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier (4,780) as the only Huskers in history with 4,000 career rushing yards.
The Big Red closed the night with 234 rushing yards, including 55 yards on 10 carries by quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. He also completed 18-of-29 passes for 221 yards. He did not throw an interception or a touchdown pass, but he did haul in his first career touchdown catch, a 16-yard reception from freshman wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El after a reverse handoff from Abdullah.
Overall, Nebraska finished with 471 yards of total offense, while limiting the Wildcats to 290 yards, including 117 rushing and 173 passing. Running back Justin Jackson, who produced 99 yards and two touchdowns on 15 first-half carries for the Cats, managed just 29 yards on seven second-half carries to finish with 128 yards.
Pierson-El provided several highlights for Nebraska on the night, catching three passes for 66 yards, including a 46-yarder to set up his touchdeown pass to Armstrong. The explosive Pierson-El added three punt returns for 26 yards and two kickoff returns for 29 more.
Senior Kenny Bell returned from an injury suffered in the first quarter against Michigan State to lead the Husker receivers with five catches for 89 yards. Illinois native Jordan Westerkamp added a pair of receptions for 28 yards, while Abdullah hauled in four catches for 13 yards. He also had a 15-yard kickoff return to finish with 174 all-purpose yards on the night.
Senior linebacker Trevor Roach helped lead a dominant Blackshirt defense in the second half by notching a team-high 10 tackles for the game, including one sack of Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian for a seven-yard loss.
The Huskers harassed Siemian all night, as he officially finished with seven carries for minus-26 yards rushing. He also completed just 18-of-39 passes for 173 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Roach was far from the only Blackshirt to get their paws on Siemian on the night, as the Big Red's pressure overwhelmed the Wildcats in the second half.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams led the Blackshirts' second-half sack attack with 2.5 sacks of Siemian for 24 yards in losses. They were the first sacks of his Husker career. Jack Gangwish shared Williams' first sack, splitting a 12-yard loss to end a Wildcat drive. For the night, the Blackshirts sacked Siemian four times for 37 yards in losses.
Senior linebacker Zaire Anderson added a strong night with eight tackles and several solid plays down the field in pass coverage, including a pair of breakups. Defensive end Randy Gregory added a pair of breakups of his own by batting down passes at the line of scrimmage. Nate Gerry added the biggest play in the secondary with his first-half interception in the end zone to shut down a Northwestern scoring threat.
The Huskers trailed 7-0 after one quarter and 17-14 at the half against a fired up Wildcat bunch. But the Big Red outgained Northwestern nearly 10-1 in the second half, and allowed just one snap by the Wildcats on the Huskers' half of the field.
Nebraska took its first lead of the game midway through the third quarter when Abdullah hit paydirt on a one-yard plunge for the second time in the game to give the Big Red a 21-17 lead. It was Abdullah's 40th career touchdown, including his 32nd career rushing score. It capped an 11-play, 55-yard drive that consumed nearly five minutes.
After Nebraska took the lead, the Blackshirts started to overwhelm the Wildcat offensive line. On Northwestern's final offensive play of the third quarter, Williams and Gangwish sacked Siemian, with Gangwish forcing a fumble that was recovered by a Northwestern offensive lineman.
The Huskers took the ball to the end of the third quarter and faced a key 3rd-and-3 to open the fourth. Armstrong connected with Alonzo Moore on a cruical 18-yard pickup across the middle to open the quarter and eventually the flood gates.
Two plays later, Abdullah took a handoff to the right from Armstrong, made a Northwestern tackler miss then sprinted down the right sideline. He cut back to the middle of the field and was finally shoestring tackled from behind near the left pylon at the Northwestern 1 after a 50-yard gain.
One play later, Abdullah pounded through the tackles for his third one-yard touchdown run of the night to give the Huskers a 28-17 lead.
The Blackshirts continued to dominate, forcing a three-and-out after Williams gave the Huskers their third sack of Siemian on the night.
Then the Big Red running game went to work. Abdullah and Imani Cross pounded their way between the tackles until Armstrong kept a read option and sprinted 17 yards down the right hashmark. Armstrong went airborne near the 5 to avoid a Northwestern tackler and rode another Wildcat to the goal line. His stretch for the line was initially ruled a touchdown, but was overturned after an official review.
One play later, Abdullah slammed through the middle on his fourth one-yard touchdown run of the night.
Like Abdullah, the Blackshirts continued to dominate. Williams notched another sack of Siemian on the second straight drive and buried the Wildcats at their own 3. On 4th-and-25, Northwestern punted from the back of its own end zone, and Pierson-El set the Huskers up for the start of the ensuing drive at the Northwestern 19.
The Big Red offense was unable to finish the drive with a touchdown, but Drew Brown added a 33-yard field goal to cap the scoring in Nebraska's 38-17 win.
The Huskers return to Memorial Stadium for their only home game in October, when Nebraska takes on Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 25. Kickoff between the Big Red and Scarlet Knights is set for 11 a.m.
Final: #19 Nebraska 38, Northwestern 17
Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014
Ryan Field (Evanston, Ill.)
First Quarter (Northwestern, 7-0)
NW - 5:58 - Justin Jackson 2 run (Jack Mitchell kick), 15 plays, 89 yards, 5:41 - NW 7-0
Second Quarter (Northwestern, 17-14)
NEB - 10:14 - Ameer Abdullah 2 run (Drew Brown kick), 7 plays, 80 yards, 2:38 - 7-7
NW - 1:52 - Jackson 5 run (Mitchell kick), 10 plays, 88 yards, 3:07 - NW 14-7
NEB - 1:14 - Tommy Armstrong Jr. 16 pass from De'Mornay Pierson-El (Brown kick), 3 plays, 73 yards, 0:38 - 14-14
NW - 0:03 - Mitchell 29 FG, 8 plays, 54 yards, 1:11 - NW 17-14
Third Quarter (NEB, 21-17)
NEB - 4:27 - Abdullah 1 run (Brown kick), 11 plays, 55 yards, 4:52, NEB 21-17
Fourth Quarter (NEB, 38-17)
NEB - 13:16 - Abdullah 1 run (Brown kick) - 7 plays, 77 yards, 3:05 - NEB 28-17
NEB - 7:36 - Abdullah 1 run (Brown kick) - 9 plays, 53 yards, 4:27 - NEB 35-17
NEB - 4:28 - Brown 33 FG - 4 plays, 3 yards, 1:33 - NEB 38-17
Final: #19 Nebraska 38, Northwestern 17
Time of Game: 3:34
Game Start: 6:30 p.m. (central)