McCallum’s FG at end gives Huskers 13-10 win over Wildcats
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Backup quarterback takes over for the injured starter in the fourth quarter of a tie game.
He leads his team into position for the winning field goal, which just happens to be kicked by a walk-on who started the season expecting to play another position.
After his low kick splits the uprights, he’s mobbed by teammates and carried off the field.
“I’m 44 years old, and I could have jumped as high as he kicked that, but it got through,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “I think we were due a break somewhere. I’m happy for him. He made 2 out of 3, and that was enough.”
The Cornhuskers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) prevailed in a slog after Lamar Jackson intercepted Aidan Smith’s pass to set up the final drive.
Noah Vedral, who took over at quarterback after Adrian Martinez was hurt on the final play of the third quarter, connected with Wan’Dale Robinson along the sideline for 32 yards and then ran twice to get to the 7 with 3 seconds left.
Northwestern (1-4, 0-3) called three timeouts before McCallum, who had hit from 35 yards and missed from 29, converted from the left hash mark.
“Praise God. I didn’t think that thing was going in when it left my foot,” the sophomore said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, crud.’ Give it to the man upstairs.
“I missed that second one and I kept the faith and thought this was going to come down to me. I knew I was going to get another opportunity.”
After the kick, McCallum sprinted toward the other end of the field. Teammates mobbed him and put him up on their shoulders.
The Huskers are 5-4 against Northwestern since joining the Big Ten in 2011, and a total of 24 points separates the teams over the nine games.
The previous two games went to overtime, and seven of the nine meetings have been decided by one score.
Vedral said he had total confidence in McCallum. They played AAU basketball together during summers in high school and joined the team as walk-ons after transferring from other schools.
“I know he has that clutch factor in him,” Vedral said. “I wasn’t too worried.”
Nebraska’s kicking game has been a problem all season. Barret Pickering, the returning starter, went out with an undisclosed injury before the opener.
McCallum took over the kicking duties from punter Isaac Armstrong, and the Huskers came into the day 2 of 7 on field goals. McCallum had been a backup kicker at Air Force in 2017 but transferred to Nebraska planning to play safety. He still practiced kicking, just in case, but didn’t expect he would be needed until Pickering got hurt and Armstrong struggled.
“Their kicking situation has been, quite frankly, not great,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “That’s not rocket science, right? I felt like our defense would be able to get a stop and I thought it was pretty close to blocking the field goal. It was a pretty low trajectory.”
McCallum said her thought he hit the winning kick well, but “then when I looked up the ball was pretty low. I think it just missed a hand.”
The Huskers won with Martinez and top receiver JD Spielman on the sideline. Martinez limped to the sideline at the end of a short run, and Spielman went out earlier in the third with a knee injury. Frost said he didn’t believe either injury was serious.
Northwestern, the Big Ten West defending champion, has lost three straight conference games for the first time since 2014. The Wildcats had a chance to take the lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, but Charlie Kuhbander missed a 34-yard field goal.
The teams combined for 19 punts as yards were hard to come by. The Huskers finished with 319 total yards and the Wildcats had 293.
Northwestern: The Wildcats started Aidan Smith at quarterback instead of Hunter Johnson, who left last week’s game at Wisconsin with a lower-body injury. Johnson, who was in uniform, was not listed on the team’s injury report Thursday. Smith hit some big passes and had a few nice runs, but the Wildcats still struggled. The defense, as usual, kept them in the game.
Nebraska: The Huskers desperately needed to win this game after getting humiliated by Ohio State at home last week. The status of Martinez isn’t known, but Vedral proved a capable replacement.
RARE WALK-OFF WIN
McCallum’s field goal was just the third walk-off win by Nebraska in the 96-year history of Memorial Stadium. Josh Brown kicked a 29-yard field goal to beat Colorado in 2000, and the Huskers beat Northwestern in 2013 on a Hail Mary.
Northwestern has an open date before hosting Ohio State on Oct. 18.
Nebraska visits Minnesota on Oct. 12.