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Huskers Shut Down Wildcats

Lincoln - In a low-scoring Big Ten slugfest dominated by the defenses, Heinrich Haarberg's 44-yard touchdown strike to freshman wide receiver Malachi Coleman on Nebraska's first offensive play of the fourth quarter provided the winning margin in a 17-9 Husker victory over Northwestern on Saturday.

Playing in front of 86,769 fans in the 100th anniversary celebration of Memorial Stadium, Nebraska improved to 4-3 and 2-2 in the Big Ten, while dropping Northwestern to 3-4 and 1-3 in the conference.

Nebraska won despite managing just 248 total yards and committing a pair of first-quarter turnovers. The Huskers rushed for 163 yards on 39 carries and went just 8-for-17 passing for 85 yards. 

Northwestern moved for 257 total yards, including 176 yards on 12-of-23 passing with one interception, while managing just 81 rushing yards on 39 carries. The Cats also produced just nine first downs in the game, compared to 17 for the Huskers.

The Blackshirts held the Wildcats to minus-5 rushing yards on 18 second-half carries by recording 13 tackles for loss - Nebraska's most since producing 13 TFL against Illinois in 2019.

Nebraska also played cleaner football than Northwestern, committing just three penalties for 30 yards, while the normally disciplined Cats were flagged eight times for 75 yards. 

The Huskers trailed early after Haarberg threw an interception on Nebraska's first play from scrimmage to open the game. Devin Turner intercepted the pass to set the Wildcats up with a short field at the Husker 44.

The Blackshirts rose to the challenge and pushed Northwestern back across midfield, but the first seven minutes of the game was played on Nebraska's side of the field. 

The Wildcats finally cashed in when Haarberg was intercepted by Rod Heard, who returned it 10 yards to the Nebraska 13. The Blackshirts rose up again, shoving Northwestern back 14 yards to force a 45-yard field goal attempt by Jack Olsen, who connected with the wind at his back to give the Cats a 3-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first quarter.

Haarberg and the Huskers then found an answer by marching 35 yards in nine plays capped by Tristan Alvano's 47-yard field goal against the wind to tie the score at 3-3 with 3:11 left in the period.

Midway through the second quarter, Northwestern put together its only sustained drive of the first half, covering 73 yards in 10 plays, capped by Olsen's 37-yard field goal to regain a three-point lead at 6-3 with 5:48 remaining in the half.

Haarberg and the Huskers rallied for an answer again with a 10-play drive of their own that covered 77 yards and took 5:18. Freshman running back Emmett Johnson carried four times on the drive for 25 yards, while Haarberg capped a drive that featured three of his own runs for a total of 25 yards, with a three-yard touchdown plunge to put the Big Red on top for the first time at 10-6 with 23 seconds left in the half.

Johnson finished the day with a game-high 73 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Haarberg added 72 yards on 16 carries.

Northwestern tried to find an answer in short order, but Tommi Hill closed a strong defensive performance by the Blackshirts with his second interception of the season.

The defenses continued to dominate in a scoreless third quarter, before the Husker offense opened the fourth quarter with a short field. On Nebraska's first play from scrimmage in the period, Haarberg hit Coleman with the long touchdown strike in the middle of the end zone to give the Huskers a 17-6 lead.

Northwestern refused to quit, answering with a 66-yard pass from Brendan Sullivan to Bryce Kirtz. Malcolm Hartzog made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Northwestern 9, and the Blackshirts responded by keeping the Cats out of the end zone again. Olsen salvaged a 25-yard field goal to pull Northwestern within 17-9 with 11:09 left.

The Blackshirts did the rest, putting the exclamation point on the victory with a massive 16-yard sack by Jimari Butler and Ty Robinson at the Northwestern 14.

Defensive tackle Nash Hutmacher led a hard-hitting, aggressive Blackshirt defense with seven tackles, including 2.5 sacks. Isaac Gifford added seven stops of his own, including a highlight reel tackle on the edge through a pair of blockers on a Northwestern screen pass.

Princewill Umanmielen also secured seven tackles, including a pair for losses, while Butler and Luke Reimer each notched six tackles.

Nebraska returns to Memorial Stadium next Saturday to play host to Purdue. Kick-off with the Boilermakers in Lincoln is set for 2:30 p.m. with live television coverage on FS1.