Dramatic victory keeps Nebraska’s season on track
If Nebraska makes it back to the Big Ten championship game, the
Cornhuskers might look at Jordan Westerkamp’s tipped-ball touchdown
on the last play against Northwestern as the one that saved their
season and maybe even Bo Pelini’s job.
The Huskers (6-2, 3-1) head to Michigan this week alone in
second place behind Michigan State (8-1, 5-0). If they win –
Wolverines coach Brady Hoke is 19-0 at the Big House – they would
play the Spartans for a share of first place and the tie-breaker
Nov. 16 in Lincoln. Michigan State has a bye this week.
Had Westerkamp not come up with Ron Kellogg III’s 49-yard
desperation heave to beat the Wildcats 27-24, Nebraska would have
had to immediately turn to other teams for help to win the
division, and sixth-year coach Bo Pelini’s seat would have become
”After a play like that, it can change the whole momentum of
the season,” Kellogg said. ”We still have four games left before
the Big Ten championship game, and we have to win them all, so we
just have to keep driving.”
The Huskers had come into the Northwestern game off a loss at
double-digit underdog Minnesota. That, combined with the
second-half meltdown at home against UCLA in September and the
70-31 loss to Wisconsin in last year’s Big Ten title game, fueled
media and fan speculation that Pelini’s days in Lincoln might be
That talk is on hold now.
”It sounds crazy, but sometimes a win or even a loss masks
things one way or another,” Pelini said. ”Whether we caught that
ball in the end zone or didn’t catch that ball, we’re still the
same football team coming in tomorrow. The same challenges lie
ahead. It’s just a little easier to handle. It’s easier to go in
tomorrow. Hopefully, the momentum will carry over into next week
and, hopefully, help propel us forward.”
Nebraska has a number of injury concerns heading into the game
at Ann Arbor, Mich.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez’s status for the rest of the season
remains in question as he recovers from foot, shoulder and hip
injuries. Pelini said he plans to have Tommy Armstrong Jr. and
Kellogg continue to share playing time.
The Huskers’ best offensive lineman, Spencer Long, was lost to a
season-ending knee injury Oct. 12. Another starting offensive
lineman, Jack Cotton, went out with a sprained ligament in his
right knee in the second half against Northwestern. A groin injury
kept receiver Kenny Bell on the sidelines in the second half, and
receiver Jamal Turner has been battling hamstring problems all
A maligned defense put the Huskers in position to win Saturday,
and it will go into the Michigan game with a shot of
Northwestern used two 75-yard drives and a short field set up by
an interception to lead 21-7 early in the second quarter.
But the Wildcats punted on 10 of their next 11 series, and the
other ended on an interception. Only one of those 11 possessions
lasted more than five plays, and there were five
The biggest stop came after Tyler Scott returned Northwestern’s
fourth interception of the game to the Nebraska 7 with 2:25 to
play. Kain Colter ran to the 1 before Ciante Evans and David Santos
combined to tackle Treyvon Green for a 1-yard loss and Randy
Gregory hit Colter for a 2-yard loss. Jeff Budzien’s 21-yard field
goal put Northwestern up three points.
Even though the Huskers went into their final drive with no
timeouts and just over a minute to play, it wasn’t quite
desperation time, Kellogg said.
”I was thinking field goal,” he said, ”especially when I
threw the ball to Quincy (Enunwa) and he dropped it” on the
second-to-last play. ”I figured we would go into overtime.”
The comeback from a 14-point deficit marked the fifth time in
two seasons that Nebraska has overcome a double-digit deficit to
win a Big Ten game.
”Hopefully, we’ll take all that momentum and bring it back this
week to get ready for Michigan,” Westerkamp said.