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Report Card: Northwestern's loss to Nebraska

If we only graded the first half, Northwestern would have made the dean's list.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Not a lot went right for Northwestern against their toughest opponent of the season, and it shows in Saturday's report card:

Offense: C- Justin Jackson is the only reason Northwestern's offense received a passing grade Saturday. The Wildcats fell flat in the second half, unable to score in the final 30 minutes. Trevor Siemian didn't even complete half of his passes and averaged less than five yards per attempt. Siemian was indecisive at times, but the offensive line wasn't much help in pass protection. Nebraska was getting solid pressure with a four man rush. Once again, NU failed to produce many big plays, and their drives halted early, often leaving the Huskers with solid field position. Justin Jackson's 128 rushing yards on 5.8 ypc were the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreadful day for the offense.

Defense: C+ 38 points. 471 yards. 0 turnovers. The 'Cats will never have a chance to win when their opponent puts up those numbers. Ameer Abdullah tore up the defense for 107 yards on the ground in the second half while Tommy Armstrong used both his arm and his legs to hurt NU. The front seven didn't create much pressure nor did they fill running lanes. The secondary was decent, and the first half was fantastic. But the Huskers had their way in the second half, and pulled away easily in the fourth quarter.

Special teams: B- It was a very uneventful day for the special teams. There weren't any big returns or blocks. Chris Gradone was exactly what you expect from Chris Gradone. He averaged 36.9 yards on eight punts. For the second time this season, Gradone punted for more yards than the offense gained. Jack Mitchell knocked through his one field goal attempt, a 29-yard boot. Solomon Vault had some decent returns, but overall there was nothing special about special teams.

Coaching: C Pat Fitzgerald came into this game with a solid gameplan. They established the run early and held Ameer Abdullah to almost nothing in the first half. Trevor Siemian coordinated several impressive drives, and Northwestern led 17-14 at the break. It looked like a very winnable game at the time. Bo Pelini made the adjustments to win though. Nebraska kept Northwestern off the board in the second half while Abdullah ran wild and "Go Big Red" echoed throughout Ryan Field. The 'Cats played two entirely different halves, and much of that lies on coaching.