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Halftime Notes: Northwestern 17, Nebraska 14

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Justin Jackson carried Northwestern to a halftime lead over Nebraska.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

-Justin Jackson has been fantastic again for NU. He rushed for 99 yards on 15 carries in the first half for an average of 6.6 yards per carry and two scores.

-Northwestern's offense came out sharp and balanced. Against Minnesota the Cats threw the ball 50 times and ran the ball just 40 percent of the time. So far the NU offense has run the ball 24 times and passed 23 times. It's important the Cats maintain an even ratio well into the second half.

-The Cats established the run early with Jackson, who averaged 6.5 yards per rush on the opening drive. Jackson also broke free for a 27-yard run, the longest of his career, and punched in NU's first touchdown, a two yard run. Jackson's second rushing TD of the season capped off NU's 15-play, 89-yard scoring drive, on which Siemian went 5 of 7 for 43 yards.

-Siemian moved pretty well in the first half, which is a good sign given his foot injury. He only rushed the ball twice for six yards, but he managed to pick up positive yardage coming out of two seven step drops, which is impressive for even a healthy Siemian.

- Northwestern's offensive line opened holes for Jackson and protected Siemian well in the first quarter, but Nebraska's pass rush got to Siemian in the second quarter. Siemian didn't have time to go through progressions and took a beating on multiple occasions in the pocket. The Cats need to improve their blitz pick-up in the second half.

-Nebraska was sluggish offensively early on. Tommy Armstrong completed just 50 percent of his throws, the receiving corps had multiple drops and the Huskers rushed for only 79 yards. NU also got a little lucky on Nebraska's second drive: on three consecutive plays Tommy Armstrong overthrew a promising screen play to Abdullah, Kenny Bell dropped a wide open first down catch and Nebraska missed a 39-yard field goal.

-Northwestern is borrowing Michigan State's formula for defending Nebraska: stop Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah had just 39 yards on nine carries and one touchdown. He averaged over six yards per carry coming in, but averaged just 4.3 yards per rush in the first half. Northwestern is bottling up a rushing attack that averages over 300 yards per game.

-While NU's rush defense has been stout, its pass defense has struggled. Bell and freshman phenom De'Mornay Pierson-El beat NU's secondary on various occasions. Nebraska threw for 148 yards and one touchdown, but it would have been worse if it weren't for some inaccurate throws and dropped passes. NU has done a great job stopping Abdullah, but the corners can't get caught creeping forward to stop the run or else they'll get burned on play action fakes.

-The Cats obviously have little faith in their special teams coverage. They have opted to squib kickoffs and punt out of bounds to avoid big plays. Pierson-El is an explosive returner, but NU is handing Nebraska great field position by doing that.

-The last three meetings between Northwestern and Nebraska were decided by a combined seven points. It looks like we're in for another close one.