Evanston, Illinois – Sophomore kicker Drew Luckenbaugh made a 37-yard field goal in overtime, and Northwestern came from behind for a stunning 34-31 victory over Nebraska on Saturday at Ryan Field.
Nebraska (0-6, 0-4 Big Ten) had leads of 28-14 and 31-21 in the fourth quarter, but Northwestern (3-3, 3-1) rallied late in regulation to force overtime and win its first home game in four attempts this season.
The Huskers had possession first in overtime, but on fourth-and-1 from the Northwestern 16-yard line, a fumbled shotgun snap resulted in a scrambling Adrian Martinez throwing a pass in the end zone that Northwestern defensive back JR Pace caught for his second interception of the game.
Northwestern, which entered overtime with 29 rushing yards, kept the ball on the ground for three plays in setting up the field goal for Luckenbaugh, who had made a 31-yard attempt but missed from 42 yards in regulation.
Nebraska lost to Northwestern in overtime for the second consecutive season and has lost four straight overtime games, dating to a 2014 win at Iowa.
Martinez, a freshman quarterback, completed 25 of 35 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown and became just the second freshman quarterback in Nebraska history to reach 1,000 passing yards in a season, joining Taylor Martinez.
Senior running back Devine Ozigbo ran 22 times for 169 yards to surpass 100 rushing yards in a game for the second time this season, as Nebraska finished with 231 rushing yards.
Down 10 points, Northwestern drove to the Nebraska 13-yard line before settling on a 31-yard field goal by Luckenbaugh to pull the Wildcats within seven points.
Nebraska senior linebacker Luke Gifford fielded an onside kick at the Northwestern 47-yard line with 2:26 remaining. The Wildcats responded by using all three of their timeouts, as Nebraska ran the football three times and only took 15 seconds off the clock. But junior punter Isaac Armstrong pinned the Wildcats at their 1-yard line with 2:02 remaining.
Northwestern answered by covering all 99 yards, the key play a 32-yard completion from senior quarterback Clayton Thorson to senior wide receiver Nagel to the Nebraska 32-yard line. Thorson tied the game with 12 seconds to play with a 5-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver JJ Jefferson, and Nebraska kneeled out the clock to force overtime.
Northwestern took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove to the Nebraska 41-yard line, but safety Antonio Reed intercepted Thorson on a deep pass, giving the Huskers possession at their 4-yard line. That was Reed’s second career interception.
Nebraska responded with its longest scoring drive of the season, covering 97 yards in 15 plays. Martinez sparked the series with a run of 12 yards on a third-and-8 draw play. On the next play, Martinez connected with senior receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. for a 26-yard gain over the middle, then hit sophomore receiver JD Spielman on a 13-yard swing pass, as the offense picked up the tempo. Spielman finished with eight receptions for 76 yards.
Ozigbo carried four times thereafter, including a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Huskers a 20-14 lead with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter.
The Blackshirts responded with a quick three-and-out. Sophomore defensive end Ben Stille sacked Thorson and Gifford pressured Thorson into a third-down incompletion, forcing a Northwestern punt. Gifford finished with a team-high 3.5 tackles for loss.
Northwestern regained possession at its 20-yard line after a turnover, and the Wildcats drove to the Nebraska 24-yard line. But the Huskers forced a stop on third-and-long, and Luckenbaugh missed a 42-yard field attempt.
Nebraska responded with a 37-yard run by Ozigbo to end the third quarter with the Huskers leading, 20-14. Ozigbo began the fourth quarter with gains of 21 and 4 yards, and Washington carried for 11 yards before scoring a 3-yard touchdown run with 13:40 remaining. Martinez ran for a two-point conversion and 28-14 lead.
Northwestern answered quickly. On the third play of their ensuing series, the Wildcats scored when Thorson hit Flynn on a 61-yard pass to cut Nebraska’s lead to 28-21 with 12:31 to play.
The Wildcats regained possession, but senior safety Tre Neal intercepted Thorson at the 50 and returned the ball to the Northwestern 36. That led to a 34-yard field goal by freshman Garrett Pickering with 5:41 remaining for a 31-21 lead.
Nebraska opened the game with an impressive 75-yard touchdown drive that needed only four plays.
Ozigbo got the Huskers into Northwestern territory with a 33-yard run, and on the next play, Martinez hit Spielman on a crossing route, and Spielman scored on the 42-yard catch-and-run for a 7-0 lead.
The Blackshirts forced a Northwestern punt after the Wildcats gained one first down on their opening possession. Nebraska put together a 12-play drive that covered 52 yards but stalled at the Northwestern 42-yard line, and Pickering hit the right upright on a 45-yard field goal attempt.
Nebraska led 7-0 after the first quarter, its first lead after the opening period since last season’s game at Purdue, which was also the Huskers’ last victory.
Northwestern tied the game 7-7 with a nine-play drive that covered 80 yards. Thorson had two 17-yard completions on the series, to Flynn and Jefferson, and then completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Nagel on third-and-8.
The Wildcats took the lead late in the second quarter when the pocket collapsed on Martinez, who fumbled as he succumbed to a sack. Sophomore defensive end Earnest Brown IV picked up the loose football and ran 10 yards for a touchdown and 14-7 lead.
Nebraska answered with an impressive touchdown drive that covered 83 yards in eight plays and covered 2:11. Martinez hit junior receiver Mike Williams on a 24-yard pass that pushed the Huskers into Northwestern territory.
Ozigbo then gained 18 yards on a catch-and-run before capping the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run up the middle with 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The extra point, though, was no good, and Northwestern held a 14-13 lead at halftime.
Nebraska fell to 8-5 all-time against Northwestern and dropped to 4-2 all-time in Evanston. The loss snapped the Huskers’ four-game win streak at Ryan Field.
Nebraska returns home Saturday to play Minnesota. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.