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Northwestern-Nebraska final score: Rapid Reaction

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Reaction to Nebraska's 38-17 win over Northwestern.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

**Update on Miles Shuler**: Shuler is alert and responsive and was taken to the hospital for precautionary measures. He was carted off the field after an apparent head injury in the third quarter. Pat Fitzgerald opened his press conference by saying "the tests came back clear, so it sounds positive."

Ameer Abdullah found the end zone a career-high four times and Nebraska overcame a halftime deficit to comfortably beat Northwestern 38-17 in a pivotal conference game for both teams.

Northwestern falls to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten West. Nebraska moves to 6-1 (2-1) and leapfrogs the Cats in the conference standings.

Recap:

The Cats struck first on their opening offensive possession when Justin Jackson finished off a 15-play, 89-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run six minutes left in the first quarter. Nebraska answered eight minutes later, going 80 yards in seven plays to tie the game on a one-yard TD run by Ameer Abdullah.

Just over eight minutes later, with 1:52 left in the second quarter, Northwestern regained the lead on this nifty touchdown run by Jackson.

Nebraska returned the favor 38 seconds later, capping off a 3-play, 73-yard drive with the following trick play: an end around pass to a wide open Tommy Armstrong.

Jack Mitchell then hit a 29-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half to put the Cats up 17-14 at the break.

Jackson finished the first half with 15 rushes for 99 yards and two scores. Meanwhile, opposing running back Ameer Abdullah failed to make much of an impact in the first half. Abdullah finished the half with just 39 yards on nine carries and one score. What's more, Northwestern held Nebraska's potent rushing attack, which averages over 300 yards per contest, to just 79 yards in the first 30 minutes. The final 30 minutes were a different story.

Abdullah dominated the second half box score while Jackson and the Northwestern offense faded. The Huskers converted a crucial 3rd and 12 in Northwestern territory to set up Abdullah's second touchdown of the game and claim their first lead of the game with 4:27 left in the second quarter.

Abdullah added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Armstrong added 55 rushing yards of his own along with this highlight reel worthy in the fourth quarter:

Abdullah finished with 146 yards on 23 carries. Jackson ended with 128 yards on 22 carries.

Analysis:

-It really was a tale of two haves for Northwestern, especially in the rushing game. The Cats gave up 79 yards on the ground in the first half and 155 rushing yards in the second half. And NU gained a net total of just three rushing yards in the second half. The Northwestern defense clearly tired out in the second period. The Huskers continued to run with Abdullah, despite his limited success in the first half, and sure enough holes opened up in the Wildcat defense.

- With that said, NU's defense is not completely to blame for the loss. Northwestern's offense sputtered down the stretch. In the first half Trevor Siemian looked sharp. He had time to throw and completed more intermediate passes than usual. 11 of his first 13 completed passes went for eight or more yards, which is almost unprecedented for this Wildcats offense. So what went wrong in the second half?

-Protection. Siemian had no time. He was hurried often and took a beating. Protection is even more important since Siemian is limited with an ankle injury and can't evade the rush at all right now. Moreover, The running game also faltered. The Northwestern offensive line really struggled in the second half and that really showed.

-There are major questions that need answering right now for this team, especially at the offensive line and quarterback positions. Still, Northwestern didn't play its best game and it's important to remember that Nebraska is really good. The Huskers are probably the best team in the West and the Wildcats just ran into a better team.