Make no mistake, this was a business trip for the Huskers. While the battle with Northwestern wasn't exactly a "marquee matchup" like last weeks contest against Oregon, Nebraska had something to prove.
The Huskers needed to prove they could do something they didn't do well all of last season: taking care of business. It would have been easy for the Huskers to come into this game with a victory hangover after last weekend's thriller.
The Oregon game was a test of skill, the Northwestern game was a test of mental toughness. Nebraska was the better team on paper in many of their losses last season, just as it was heading into tonight's game. But the Huskers kept their collective pedal to the metal and ground out a win in Evanston.
The defense struggled to stop Northwestern's offense at times, but buckled down when it needed to. The Huskers allowed 251 yards through the air and 137 on the ground, but held Northwestern to 5-14 on third down conversions. The Blackshirts also forced two key turnovers, something they struggled to do last season.
The defensive line still struggled to get pressure with just a four man rush, but when the Huskers bring an extra man, the results are there.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. is still the heart and soul of this Nebraska team. Armstrong completed 62.1% of his passes for 246 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also led the team in rushing with 13 carries for 135 yards.
Tommy is most comfortable with the short pitch-and-catch passes, but was efficient with the deep ball on a few well-designed screen and play action passes.
While the Huskers had a couple of mistakes, they were "effort" mistakes as opposed to mental mistakes.
Newby's fumble on the third play of the game came as he was trying to reach the ball over the goal line for a touchdown. Ozigbo's fumble came under similar circumstances after being stopped just short of the goal line, but pushing forward for the extra effort. Those are the kinds of plays you can live with.
The personal fouls, something Nebraska had issues with the past couple games, were limited today, and Tommy proved he could throw the ball away under pressure as opposed to throwing it directly into the hands of the defenders. Those are the kinds of plays you can't live with.
If the Huskers can continue to limit mistakes, pound the ball on the ground, and be efficient enough through the air, they should be able to head into Madison, Wisconsin week eight unscathed.
Nebraska heads into homecoming next weekend undefeated and will take on Illinois. That game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Memorial Stadium.
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