Sjuts' Slant: Huskers beat Northwestern, 13-10

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Lane McCallum kicked a 24-yard field goal as time ran out, giving Nebraska a 13-10 win in yet another close game against Northwestern on Saturday.

The Cornhuskers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) won in a slog after Lamar Jackson intercepted Aidan Smith's pass to set up the winning drive.

Noah Vedral, who played the fourth quarter in place of an injured Adrian Martinez, connected with Wan'Dale Robinson along the sideline for 32 yards to the 16 and then ran twice to get to the 12 with 3 seconds left.

Northwestern (1-4, 0-3) called three timeouts before McCallum, who transferred from Air Force intending to play safety, put the ball through from the left hash mark.

After the kick, McCallum sprinted toward the other end of the field. Teammates mobbed him and carried him off the field.

Nebraska's kicking game has been plagued all season, since Barret Pickering went out with an undisclosed injury before the opener. McCallum took over the kicking duties from punter Isaac Armstrong. McCallum made a 35-yard field goal to give Nebraska a 10-0 lead in the first half but his try from 29 yards in the fourth quarter hit the right upright and bounced away.

The Huskers are 5-4 against Northwestern since joining the Big Ten in 2011, and a total of 24 points separates the teams over the nine games.

The previous two games went to overtime, and seven of the nine meetings have been decided by one score.

The Huskers won with Martinez and top receiver JD Spielman on the sideline. Martinez got up limping after getting tackled at the end of a run on the last play of the third quarter. Spielman went out earlier in the third with a knee injury.

Northwestern, the Big Ten West defending champion, has lost three straight conference games for the first time since 2014. The Wildcats had a chance to take the lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, but Charlie Kuhbander missed a 34-yard field goal.

The teams combined for 19 punts as yards were hard to come by. The Huskers finished with 319 total yards and the Wildcats had 293.


Northwestern: The Wildcats started Aidan Smith at quarterback instead of Hunter Johnson, who left last week's game at Wisconsin with a lower-body injury. Johnson, who was in uniform, was not listed on the team's injury report Thursday. Smith hit some big passes and had a few nice runs, but the Wildcats still struggled on offense. The defense, as usual, kept them in the game.

Nebraska: The Huskers desperately needed to win this game after getting humiliated by Ohio State at home last week. The status of Martinez isn't known, but Vedral proved a capable replacement.

-A Nebraska vs. Northwestern game is decided on the final play? What else is new?!?!?

-Nebraska fans may be critical of the Huskers' play. It was ugly at times. But you must win against Divisional opponents to get to Indianapolis. So consider Saturday a success. And don't forget Northwestern won the Big Ten West last year.

-Lane McCallum and Noah Vedral. Two Nebraska natives. Neither started their college careers at Nebraska. Two unlikely heroes on Saturday. That's cool stuff.

-Can we call McCallum a kicker now? He's still listed as a safety on the official Nebraska roster.

-Walk-on Walk-off. Whoever wrote that headline first gets a prize.

-McCallum told me Northwestern's attempt to 'ice the kicker' was a mistake. He says that the extra time allows his heart rate to slow down. Also, he gets a better angle and vision of the kick. He said a few extra prayers, too. McCallum said he felt confident he would make the game-winning 24-yard field goal during those extra timeouts.

-The snapping issue must get resolved. It continues to handcuff the offense. A bad snap throws the timing off on a play. This isn't the first week Nebraska has dealt with bad snaps. Specifically, one the Huskers' opening drive against Northwestern, there were two bad snaps. The center was also flagged for a false start.

-I'm starting to think Wan'Dale Robinson might be the most skilled player on the team. He led the Huskers in rushing and receiving again. Remember, Robinson is just five games into his college career.

-3-and-out on the first possession after halftime. The Huskers' first drive of the third quarter was a clunker. And a head-scratcher. How does that happen after having 20 minutes together in the locker room?

-Luke McCaffrey made his Husker debut on Saturday. The true freshman looked really calm when taking the field. He got one play - a 3-yard run.

-In the fourth quarter, Husker Vision showed a play with the Spanish broadcast narrating the highlight. The crowd quietly and attentively watched. The announcer call was awesome. Fans roared. Maybe one of the loudest cheers of the day.

-Maurice Washington did not play in the first half as a punishment for unknown reasons. I would assume he's already on thin ice. That can't make Scott Frost happy. Washington is a big part of the Nebraska offense, though he was ineffective against Northwestern.

-Fans got a quick glimpse of Rahmir Johnson. He lined up in the backfield for a few plays, but didn't touch the ball. Though the backfield is crowded, I'd like to see Johnson get a chance to make something happen. He was a standout track athlete in high school and coaches rave about his speed.

-Fans powered through that game. At times, there wasn't much to look at. In fact, the energy inside Memorial Stadium got zapped after the offense sputtered in the second quarter. It was pretty cool that the revved up crowd forced a delay of game penalty on the first play of the game because of the noise.

-Some of Clayton Thorson's best performances came against Nebraska. Hopefully the same doesn't happen with Aidan Smith. The Northwestern QB, who isn't their regular starter, rushed for a game-high 64 yards. On one play, he juked Alex Smith out of his shoes.

-Noah Vedral downplayed any celebration of the win. He said he's already onto Minnesota. What happened to the 24-hour rule? Given what happened at Memorial Stadium last weekend, I'd savor this one for a bit.

-Don't look at the forecast for next week's game in Minneapolis.....