GAME 9: NEBRASKA VS. NORTHWESTERN
NOV. 5, 2011 | MEMORIAL STADIUM
LINCOLN, NEB. |2:30 P.M.
Record: 7-1, 3-1
Rankings: Coaches-9; AP-9
Last Game: def. Michigan State, 24-3
Coach: Bo Pelini
Career/NU Record: 37-13/4th year
vs. NU: 0-0
Record: 3-5, 1-4
Rankings: Coaches-NR; AP-NR
Last Game: def. Indiana, 59-38
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
Career/NU Record: 37-34/6th year
vs. NU: first meeting
Nebraska remains at Memorial Stadium for the second straight week, as the Huskers take on Northwestern in a Big Ten Legends Division matchup. Kickoff for the first-regular season meeting since 1974 between the schools is set for 2:30 p.m. CT in Lincoln, with the Big Ten Network providing the television coverage.
The Huskers enter the contest with a three-game win streak following an impressive 24-3 victory over No. 9 Michigan State in Lincoln last Saturday. The Blackshirt defense limited MSU to less than 200 yards of total offense, helping Nebraska improve to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten Conference play. The win left Nebraska in a three-way tie atop the Legends Division with Michigan State and Michigan.
The victory also allowed Nebraska to move up four spots in both major polls, and the Huskers now check in at No. 9 in the Associated Press Poll and USA Today Coaches poll. The Huskers check in 10th in the latest BCS rankings.
Northwestern picked up its first Big Ten victory on Saturday with a 59-38 win at Indiana. The loss snapped a five-game slide for the Wildcats and improved them to 3-5 overall in 2011. The Wildcats have led in the second half in each of their five losses. Northwestern boasts an explosive offense, averaging better than 430 yards per game.
Nebraska owns a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series with Northwestern, including a 2-0 mark in Lincoln. The schools have met just once since 1974, with Nebraska posting a 66-17 victory in the 2000 Alamo Bowl. NU also captured wins in Lincoln in 1902 and 1974, while Northwestern was victorious in Evanston in 1931.
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 37-13 record in his fourth season. Pelini has guided NU to nine or more wins in each of his first three seasons as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich in accomplishing that feat. Pelini has guided Nebraska to a conference championship game the past two seasons and to at least a share of the Big 12 divisional crown his first three seasons as head coach.
Northwesterb: Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern, ‘97) owns a 37-34 record in his sixth season as head coach at his alma mater. Fitzgerald has guided the Wildcats to three consecutive bowl appearances in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Before taking over the program, Fitzgerald was a Northwestern assistant from 2001 to 2005. He was a two-time All-America linebacker for the Wildcats in 1995 and 1996.
*-Nebraska is 844-346-40 all-time, one of just eight schools with 800 all-time victories
*-Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997).
*-The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships.
*-Nebraska's 47 all-time bowl appearances rank fifth nationally.
*-Since 1970, Nebraska has 410 wins, 26 more than any other school.
*-Nebraska's 99 football Academic All-Americans leads the nation.
*-The Huskers have had 107 All-Americans in school history.
Northwestern snapped a five-game losing streak and picked up its first conference victory with a 59-38 win at Indiana last Saturday. The Wildcats come to Lincoln with a 3-5 overall record and a 1-4 mark in Big Ten play. Three of Northwestern’s five losses have come to ranked teams, and the Wildcats have been in every game they’ve played this season. In fact, three of Northwestern’s five losses have come by 10 or fewer points and two by a touchdown or less. The Wildcats have also led in the second half in three of their five losses and were tied in the fourth quarter of a fourth loss.
Offensively, Northwestern is averaging 31.6 points per game. The Wildcats feature a balanced offense that averages 187.8 rushing yards per game and 244.0 passing yards. Northwestern has used two quarterbacks this season in Dan Persa and Kain Colter. Persa is completing 75.5 percent of his passes for 1,251 yards and nine touchdowns against three interceptions. Colter is the Wildcats’ leading rusher, averaging 57.4 yards per game, and he is completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 531 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception.
Defensively, Northwestern has allowed at least 34 points in each of its first five Big Ten games. The Wildcats are allowing an average of 31.5 points per game and surrender an average of 193.6 rushing yards per game and 238.0 passing yards per contest.
Northwestern has outscored its opponents 152-113 in the first half, but has been outscored 139-101 in the second half, including 87-49 in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska has won three of the four all-time meetings, including the only two contests since World War II. In the most recent meeting at the 2000 Alamo Bowl, ninth-ranked Nebraska cruised to a 66-17 victory over No. 18 Northwestern. In the last meeting in Lincoln, the 10th-ranked Huskers defeated the Wildcats, 49-7, during the 1974 season. Northwestern’s lone win in the series came in Evanston in 1931, while the Huskers potsed a 12-0 win in Lincoln in the first meeting between the schools in 1902.
The Huskers’ 66 points in the last meeting marked the highest point total in a bowl game in school history. Dan Alexander rushed for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the win, setting the Husker bowl game rushing record.
Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
Mat Fitzgerald is in his sixth season as the coach at his alma mater. A 1997 graduate of Northwestern, Fitzgerald is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame as a player, when he helped the Wildcats win back-to-back Big Ten titles by twice winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and claiming the Chuck Bednarik Award. As Northwestern’s head coach, Fitzgerald has compiled a 37-34 record.
Fitzgerald’s teams have made three straight bowl appearances and have been bowl eligible in four straight seasons, both of which mark the longest streaks in school history. In his third season in 2008, Fitzgerald led Northwestern to a nine-win season, including an upset of No. 21 Missouri in the Alamo Bowl.
Fitzgerald was hired in July of 2006 after the sudden death of Randy Walker. When he was hired, Fitzgerald was the youngest head coach among all Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Before moving into his head-coaching role, Fitzgerald served as an assistant coach at Northwestern from 2001 to 2006. Prior to returning to his alma mater, Fitzgerald was a defensive graduate assistant at Maryland (1998) and Colorado (1999). His first full-time coaching job came at Idaho in 2000.
As a head coach, Fitzgerald has never faced Nebraska. He was a part of Colorado’s staff in 1999, when the Huskers defeated the Buffaloes, 33-30 in overtime.
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini
Bo Pelini is in his fourth season as Nebraska’s head coach and owns a 37-13 record with the Huskers. Pelini helped Nebraska to at least a share of the Big 12 North title in each of his first three seasons, becoming the first coach in the history of that league to win at least a share of a division title in each of his first three years.
Pelini took charge of the Huskers after a highly successful five-year run as a collegiate defensive coordinator, including orchestrating NU’s defensive efforts in 2003. Pelini picked up his first college head coaching victory as NU’s interim coach in the 2003 Alamo Bowl against Michigan State.
Following his one season at Nebraska, Pelini served as the co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 2004, helping the Sooners to the Big 12 title and BCS title game. He then followed with three seasons as the defensive coordinator at LSU. With the Tigers, Pelini led three consecutive defenses to No. 3 national rankings in total defense. He culminated his time in Baton Rouge by helping the Tigers to the 2007 national championship.
In addition to his five seasons at the collegiate level, Pelini coached in the NFL for nine seasons, serving three years each with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. Pelini was a team captain and four-year letterman as a safety at Ohio State from 1987 to 1990.
Pelini Stacks up Well with Peers
In guiding Nebraska to a 37-13 record, Pelini has put himself in some impressive company.
*-Pelini is the fourth Nebraska head coach to win nine games in each of his first three seasons with the Cornhuskers. The others to reach that win plateau were Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich. Pelini has joined Solich as the only NU coaches with two 10-win seasons in their first three years.
*- Pelini, Solich and Texas' Mack Brown were the only coaches in Big 12 history (1996) to win nine or more games in each of their first three seasons.
*-Pelini's nine victories in 2008 tied for the most among 18 coaches in their first season at their respective schools. Among first-time head coaches, Pelini's victory total was the best in the nation. Pelini's 19 victories in his first two seasons were second among that group, and he has moved to the top of the 2008 hiring class with his 35 wins.
*-Pelini was just the eighth BCS conference (since 1998) first-time head coach to post nine or more victories in his first season. He was just the second first-year head coach in that span to win nine games after inheriting a team with a losing record the previous year. Only Pelini and Bill Stewart (former West Virginia coach) from the group won nine games each of the past three seasons.
Pelini Continues Defensive Accomplishments at Nebraska
At Nebraska, Pelini has continued his history of building championship defenses. Nebraska finished second in the Big 12 in total defense in 2008, a year after NU was 100th or worse in nearly every defensive category. In 2009, the Huskers led the nation in scoring defense and had the nation’s best scoring defensive improvement (18.1 ppg). Last season Nebraska again ranked among the nation’s best in several defensive categories.
With Pelini's previous track record, the success of his Nebraska defenses is no surprise.
*-Pelini led the 2003 Blackshirts to impressive numbers. NU had a school-record 47 takeaways, including a Big 12-record 32 interceptions, and finished second nationally in scoring defense, first in pass efficiency defense and 11th in total defense.
*-Pelini guided LSU defenses to No. 3 national finishes in total defense each of his three seasons in Baton Rouge.
*-In 116 games as a collegiate coach, Pelini's defenses have posted 10 shutouts, held the opposition to seven points or less 37 times and to 20 points or less 78 times.
*-Pelini-led defenses have 226 total takeaways, including two top-three national rankings.
Four Assistants in First Season on Husker Staff
After having the same coaching staff for each of his first three seasons at Nebraska, Bo Pelini welcomed four new assistants in 2011. Rich Fisher (receivers), John Garrison (assistant offensive line/tight ends), Ross Els (linebackers) and Corey Raymond (secondary) are all in their first seasons as full-time members of the Husker coaching staff.
In addition to the new faces, Pelini shuffled some duties among returning coaches. Tim Beck takes over the role of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Ron Brown shifts to tutoring the Nebraska running backs.
Nebraska in Inaugural Season in Big Ten Conference
Nebraska officially became the 12th member of the Big Ten Conference on July 1, 2011. The Huskers began their first season of Big Ten Conference earlier this month and are 3-1 in conference action.
Nebraska has won football championships in four conferences during its 121 years of intercollegiate football, and also competed as an independent for several years. Overall, Nebraska has won 43 conference championships.
The major conferences for the Nebraska football program since the first season of play in 1890 include:
1892-1897: Western Inter-State Foot Ball Association
1898-1906, 1918-1920: Independent
1907-1917, 1921-1927: Missouri Valley Conference (12 conference titles)
1928-1947: Big Six Conference (9 conference titles)
1948-1959: Big Seven Conference
1960-1995: Big Eight Conference (20 conference titles)
1996-2010: Big 12 Conference (2 conference titles)
2011-: Big Ten Conference
Nebraska holds a 34-6 record against Big Ten opponents since 1970. The Huskers have won nine straight games in Lincoln against conference foes dating back to a 1981 loss to Penn State, an independent at that time.
*-Among Big Ten Conference opponents, Nebraska has faced Minnesota the most, taking on the Gophers 51 times. Minnesota holds a 29-21-2 edge in the all-time series, but Nebraska has won the past 15 meetings dating back to 1963, including this year’s 41-14 win in Minneapolis.
*-Nebraska and Iowa have met 41 times in football, with the Huskers owning a 26-12-3 advantage. The two teams have met just six times since 1946, with NU winning five of those six meetings. Nebraska and Iowa will complete the regular season against each other through at least 2014, and will battle on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2011 and 2012. Nebraska has played on the day after Thanksgiving every year since 1990, facing either Oklahoma or Colorado.
*-Aside from Minnesota and Iowa, Nebraska had faced the remaining six Big Ten foes on the 2011 schedule a total of 35 times entering the season, led by 13 meetings with Penn State.
Legends and Leaders
The Big Ten Conference is divided into two divisions for football competition–Legends and Leaders. Winners of the respective divisions will meet on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.
Nebraska is in the Legends Division along with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. Nebraska will face each member of the Legends Division on an annual basis. The Leaders Division consists of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin. The Huskers will face Penn State every year in a protected cross-over game, while the other five opponents will rotate onto Nebraska’s schedule.
In 2011 and 2012, Nebraska will face Ohio State and Wisconsin from the Leaders Division. Nebraska will take on Illinois and Purdue in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and does not face Indiana in the regular season in its first four years of Big Ten schedules.
The 2011 Schedule
Nebraska is facing arguably one of the nation’s most difficult schedules in 2011 and one of the most demanding slates in school history. The 2011 schedule featured nine games against teams that participated in a bowl game in 2010. Included in that group are BCS bowl teams Ohio State (Sugar) and Wisconsin (Rose). Other teams that appeared in a bowl game include Fresno State (Humanitarian), Washington (Holiday), Michigan State (Capital One), Northwestern (Ticket City), Penn State (Outback), Michigan (Gator) and Iowa (Insight).
Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State shared the Big Ten title in 2010, and each of those three schools won 11 regular-season games.
Nebraska’s home schedule is arguably the most attractive in school history. In addition to the new flavor of Big Ten foes, six of the seven opponents coming to Memorial Stadium competed in a bowl game last fall.
Huskers Look to Continue Home Success against B1G
Nebraska carries a modest eight-game home winning streak into Saturday’s meeting with Northwestern, its longest at home since a 26-game win streak from 1998 to 2002.. The Huskers also own an impressive winning streak against opponents from the new conference at Memorial Stadium.
*-Nebraska has won its past nine games in Lincoln against current members of the Big Ten, dating back to a 30-24 loss to No. 3 Penn State in 1981. The Nittany Lions were an independent at that time.
*-When counting only games against members of the Big Ten at game time, Nebraska has won 19 straight games at Memorial Stadium against conference foes, dating back to a 26-14 loss to Minnesota in 1960.
*-Overall, Nebraska is 48-17-4 against Big Ten teams in Lincoln.