Husker Nation had been bamboozled.
The grass at Ryan Field wasn’t ten feet tall, but rather looked like some sandlot ballpark. However, what seems to be par for the course in The Battle for NU did, in fact, take place: a game way too close for comfort for the Big Red.
That said, if Terrell Newby hangs onto the football following a near half-field dash early on, and Devine Ozigbo grips the pigskin firmly while heading towards the goal line later in the game, we’re likely talking about a 38-14 Nebraska win. Those numbers would obviously not be so troublesome in the eyes of Husker fans.
However, considering that Nebraska is 4-0 and now a member of the Top 15, does the margin of victory matter? An even better question: Does the score teach the Huskers an important early lesson?
Yes, teams can say they’re ready to proceed with business as usual after a big win like Nebraska’s 35-32 victory over Oregon, but it’s a completely different challenge to actually prove it. Before the season began, I saw this as the perfect spot for a potential trap game. Not only does Northwestern usually play the Huskers tough, but win or lose, the game following Nebraska’s bout with the Ducks loomed.
In the end, Nebraska dismissed the Wildcats. Illinois natives Jordan Westerkamp and Mikale Wilbon both had special moments and, most importantly, the Huskers continued their undefeated streak.
Tommy Armstrong again flourished while playing within the system set in place for his success, rushing for a career-high 132 yards while also completing 62 percent of his passes for 246 yards and a score. While future Big Ten opposition will more effectively counter his designed darts, having to honor what Armstrong can do will open up opportunities for others such as Wilbon.
Speaking of which, I guess we can take down those “missing” flyers when it comes to the Chicago native.
Major props go out to Alonzo Moore, who has been working through major shoulder pain. It became so agonizing that he simply had to pull himself from the contest. That’s the sort of warrior you’ll find in wide receivers coach Keith Williams’ group. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Moore step onto the field again next week and take a few shots to see if he can handle the bumps and bruises.
Now it’s time to put away the alternate uniforms and focus on the trek to Indianapolis. Nebraska’s next opponent is another part of what some fans might call the “Revenge Tour”: the Illinois Fighting Illini. I’d say that the two teams had a slugfest last season, but Illinois’ 14-13 win was a battle of who stumbled across the finish line first.
Last year’s tussle went down to the wire: Illinois receiver Geronimo Allison snagged a pass from quarterback Wes Lunt with 10 seconds left in the ballgame to best the Big Red.
This year, Nebraska has better chemistry, more experience and perhaps the worst news of all for the Illini, the game is in Lincoln.
If the Huskers could fend off Northwestern, don’t expect them to let down their guard against Illinois.