LINCOLN, Neb .– 2008 versus Ohio State, 2010 versus Wisconsin. 2015 against Michigan. 2015 against Tennessee. 2019 against Ohio State.
These losses are the worst of Pat Fitzgerald’s coaching days.
Tonight, the ‘Cats added another game to the rally when Northwestern (2-3, 0-2 B1G) fell in what is arguably the ugliest competition held by Fitzgerald’s head coach with 56-7 against Nebraska (3-3, 1-2 B1G) .
The main difference between today’s game and Fitz’s other nightmare losses is that Nebraska’s soccer team lost to Illinois just over a month ago in 2021. Tonight, NU made the Cornhuskers look like ‘Bama.
The Wildcats’ passing attack actually moved the ball through the air with decent success. Ryan Hilinski completed 25 of 39 attempts to pass for 238 yards and a touchdown. Stephon Robinson Jr. led the wide receivers with eight receptions for 116 yards and one touchdown, while Malik Washington added three receptions for 46 yards. On the ground, Evan Hull darted 31 yards for seven carries.
Defensively, however, the Wildcats delivered their worst game in terms of allowed yards under Fitz. Jim O’Neil’s unit allowed 230 yards through the air and 434 yards on the ground in play. Adrian Martinez threw 202 yards and one touchdown on 17 attempts, while storming 57 yards and three touchdowns himself. He was one of four Nebraska players to run over 50 yards.
The game began with Samori Toure overtaking a 70-yard heaven from Adrian Martinez, marking for the third time in a row against a Power Five opponent that Jim O’Neil’s defense allowed the opposing offense, an opening game of 50 yards or generate longer. The Cornhuskers conceded two games later for a touchdown.
Just one offensive possession by Nebraska later, Jacquez Yant stormed 64 yards in one play, and the Cornhuskers opened the game with a two-player lead on six minutes. After another Northwestern three-and-out, Nebraska led an 11-play, 64-yard drive, which Taylor Martinez won with a 25-yard rushing touchdown on Jan.
Eventually, on the third possession of the game, the Northwestern offense found a strategy that worked: to feed Stephon Robinson Jr. in single cover on vertical routes. Hilinski and Robinson Jr. joined forces after 32-yard and 28-yard deals to reduce Nebraska’s lead to 21-7.
Despite Northwestern’s result, the Cornhuskers moved the ball with ease onto next possession via a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The touchdown represented Nebraska’s fourth in as many drives to start the game.
Still, Northwestern’s offense showed some resilience by leading an eight-game 74-yard drive. In the ninth game of possession, however, Mike Bajakian gave up the QB sneaker on the Nebraska One Yard Line after being crammed with the sneak in the previous game. Hilinski botched a shotgun handoff and Nebraska won the ball back at its own nine-yard line.
The Northwestern defense eventually secured a stop on the following possession with a turnover on the downs, but the Northwestern offensive coaches chose to go fourth and ninth on the Nebraska 45-yard line. The ‘Cats spun the ball on downs back to Big Red with 1:52 in the half. Adrian Martinez and his offense converted a 35-7 UNL lead over NU at halftime with a touchdown just 70 seconds later.
The Cornhuskers averaged 9.2 yards per game and Martinez finished with a quarterback rating of 148.6 in the first half. Hilinski, meanwhile, completed 16 of his 21 pass attempts for 189 yards and a touchdown with a quarterback rating of 167.5 after the first 30 minutes.
Northwestern’s offense opened the second half with a three-and-out, and Nebraska responded immediately with an 83-yard touchdown on a left field, which almost put the finishing touches to an abysmal performance by Jim O’Neil and the Wildcat defense .
The ‘Cats never managed to compete in the second half. The defense eventually forced Nebraska’s first punt of the game approximately 10 minutes in the third quarter. Unfortunately, Northwestern even struggled in this area. Bryce Kirtz chose not to line up the punt, which resulted in Nebraska’s punter William Pryzstup charging the ball 84 yards to Northwestern’s six-yard line. On Northwestern’s continuing offensive possession, Jake Genyk, son of special team trainer Jeff, kicked off the first poke of his career 28 yards!
The ‘Cats now have a bye week and will attempt to regroup before returning to the field on October 16 against Rutgers.