Is there even anything that needs to be said about that shellacking? The ‘Cats were outplayed from start to finish, it’s as simple as that. Here’s the weekly stock report from Northwestern’s brutal blowout loss to Nebraska.
Stephon Robinson Jr.
It’s admittedly sad that Robinson’s talents were first wasted on the program that the University of Kansas at least claims is a football team and is trying to win games, and now are stranded amidst a Northwestern team that loves burying itself in double-digit deficits just for the heck of it.
2021 Northwestern, illustrated https://t.co/EaDSlTy8D6— Daniel Olinger (@dan_olinger) October 3, 2021
But man did number five in white have it going in Lincoln. He all but willed the ‘Cats into their first score of the game, burning the cornerback on deep routes with ease on back to back plays, the latter of which was a 32-yard touchdown. He somehow one-upped himself just a drive later, hauling in a Matrix-esque catch just short of the goal line (who knows what happened with NU down 28-7 and one-yard away from a touchdown, maybe they scored).
For the night, Robinson finished with eight catches for 116 yards and the aforementioned touchdown, all but locking himself as Pat Fitzgerald’s choice for offensive playmaker of the week at the upcoming press conference. This team has proven not just bad, but bad in such a way that its hard to find joy almost anywhere. Stephon Robinson Jr. is that eye amidst the hurricane, cherish him while you can.
As some guy who probably watches too much football wrote on this site just a week ago, Northwestern’s over-reliance on the run game in their dominant wins might have been masking the bigger questions at hand. Lo and behold, their opponent tonight took the lead rather quickly, and suddenly NU had to slant toward a pass heavy game script. For the game, the ‘Cats attempted 39 passes as opposed to the 20 combined rushing attempts for their halfbacks as they tried to narrow the gap.
Even still, Andrew Clair deserves commendation for his performance, as he posted several solid carries and bares quite literally zero of the blame in last night’s defeat. Six carries for 23 yards and two catches for 22 yards doesn’t jump off the page, but the Bowling Green transfer shook off several would-be tacklers in open field collisions, and his conversion on fourth-and-one at least hid the grave nature of the team’s situation for a small bit. At the very least, Clair has proved himself as plenty reliable option should NU need him in more competitive games in the future.
Honorable Mention: I don’t know the sky? TV revenues? Nebraska fans? You think of one.
The “Northwestern sucks at starting games” bit
It’s not funny anymore. The Kenneth Walker III 75-yard dash up the left sideline was so sudden that no one really knew how to react. Duke blitzing Northwestern in a flurry of Gunner Holmberg passes and mind-boggling turnovers was brushed off as a Hunter Johnson-centered disaster that would never happen again.
But this ... this was something else. Admit it, the moment Samouri Toure snatched that 70-yard reception out of the air, you knew it was going to be a rough night. This version of Northwestern does not just spiral, they roll downhill at speeds that break the sound barrier. The defense looked completely dead, overmatched and unprepared, and the offense looked unqualified to try and lift the team out of the doldrums.
It’s funny in a dark, sadistic way, but in a more real sense it’s just frustrating for everyone involved.
Northwestern did not simply give up yards when they shouldn’t have, they got absolutely WOMPED by the Nebraska offense and, more crucially, by the Nebraska offensive line. Throw a stone into a sea of Wildcat defenders and you’d hit one that got pancaked at some point on Saturday night.
Add it all up, and the Cornhuskers’ 427-yard rushing performance set the season-high for any Big Ten team on the ground so far this season, topping none other than Michigan State’s 326-yard performance against NU from the season opener. Furthermore, it was the most yards EVER surrendered by a Pat Fitzgerald-coached team.
There is no light at the end of the tunnel or switch waiting to be flipped. A defense made out of indestructible titanium hit an iceberg and sank beneath the ocean’s floor in less than a year’s time.
You can point to a lot of reasons why, ranging from all the upperclassmen contributors they lost, to a defensive coordinator hire that many are dubious of, to the cruel mistress that is turnover regression, but the bottom line is the same — this defense is bad, especially against the run. Their opponents get to the edge faster and can create lanes wherever they desire. It’s not a good situation the ‘Cats find themselves in.
The Northwestern defense might have stolen the show tonight (and promptly crashed their escape vehicle into a flaming Lions den while fending off gunfire), but the other side of the ball can’t get off scot-free. The unit that received praise all week for mowing down opponents who they could bench press rather easily got waxed by the Huskers on a repeated basis. Ryan Hilinski was under constant duress throughout the game, often having to fire passes destined to fall incomplete well before routes had fully developed, and on other occasions getting dropped in painful fashion.
It’s also worth mentioning that this unit suffered many unfortunate injuries last night in Lincoln, as starters Josh Priebe and Sam Gerak both had to leave the field at points, while backups Conrad Rowley and Ben Wrather met the same fates when they entered the game. Getting both worked and hurt in the same 60 minutes of game time can’t be fun for anyone.
Going to let the Twitters handle this one.
former northwestern defensive coordinator jim o’neil— Eli Karp (@karp_eli) October 2, 2021
Leave Jim O'Neil in Nebraska challenge— Mac Stone (@MacStone00) October 3, 2021
Hey, you know what they say, you can’t score a TD on a Jim O’Neil defense FIVE times in a row— Ian McCafferty (@Itmccaf52) October 3, 2021
There is a lot pain in this world, and also in this sphere of college football media coverage.
Honorable Mention: Any and all jokes about Nebraska football, Time well-spent on a Saturday night, One-score games between NU and UNL, Tackling, Hope itself