Nebraska vs. Northwestern was the first significant Power Five bout of the 2022 college season, finishing in a tight Wildcats 31-28 victory. The game did not disappoint with plenty of exciting plays made by both squads in a classic BIG 10 matchup.
Although it was an incredible victory for Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats, the loss by Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers marks another entry into a rather disappointing tenure.
Nebraska got off to a hot start on Saturday, coming out of the gate with a beautiful 32-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda from Texas transfer Casey Thompson. The two teams traded series until the Wildcats managed a field goal, putting the score at 7-3. The Cornhuskers would finish the first quarter with another great touchdown from Thompson, giving Nebraska a two-score lead.
Fitzgerald’s Wildcats would answer in the beginning of the second with a long touchdown pass of their own from quarterback Ryan Hilinski. After another series trade, Northwestern ended the half taking a 17-14 lead. After a failed field goal attempt before halftime, the Cornhuskers would score two more times and recover a Northwestern fumble, giving them a 28-17 lead.
Nebraska would attempt a now controversial onside kick, which was recovered by the Wildcats, leading to three-yard Cam Porter touchdown. The third quarter would end with both defenses forcing punts, while Northwestern missed a 36-yard field goal. Despite this, the Wildcats secondary would make a crucial play after intercepting Thompson.
The interception led to another Wildcats touchdown, bringing the score to 31-28. Both teams would trade defensive blows, culminating in another Thompson interception that would ultimately seal the game for Northwestern. This was a great win for the Wildcats, giving them plenty of momentum for their next game against Duke. For Nebraska, they’ll have a chance to rebound next week against North Texas.
Nebraska vs. Northwestern Offensive Prospect Review
Nebraska vs. Northwestern was surprisingly more quarterback-centric than one would have expected heading in. Thompson had some incredible plays throughout the game, finishing the evening going 25/42, passing for 355 yards for one touchdown and two interceptions.
Despite some questionable decisions later on, Thompson’s playmaking ability was on full display throughout the game. His most exciting play came on a ridiculous scramble out of pressure, only to make a deep throw to Garcia-Castaneda.
However the more consistent of the two quarterbacks was undoubtedly Northwestern’s Ryan Hilinski. After struggling to find consistency in 2021, Hilinski looked smooth throughout this first game of the year.
Hilinski made some nice throws, showing good placement overall and some solid arm strength as well. He would finish the night 27/38 for 314 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
By far the most exciting offensive player on the field was running back Evan Hull for Northwestern. Hull was one of the top prospects to watch in Nebraska vs. Northwestern after having a breakout 2021 campaign. Hull looked unchanged from last year, rushing for 119 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. He also did some work through the air, catching five passes for 55 yards.
Cornhuskers junior running back Anthony Grant also had an impressive night, finishing with 101 yards on 19 attempts. Grant showed great speed with contact balance on his long running touchdown and could be on the draft radar going forward.
As for Nebraska’s pass catchers, Garcia-Castaneda was the most explosive weapo,n however the most intriguing was tight end Travis Vokolek. Despite leaving the game due to injury, Vokolek looked good catching the football, using his soft hands and speed to eat up yards against Northwestern’s second level defenders. Luckily for Nebraska, Vokolek appears to be fine after suffering what he described as a “minor ankle injury”.
Nebraska vs. Northwestern Defensive Prospect Review
It was a relatively quiet night for the Nebraska pass rushing group, with none of their trio able to properly get to the quarterback. Garrett Nelson had a few good pressures on Hilinski, in addition to some nice plays against the run. However, he was largely stymied by the pass sets of the Northwestern offensive line.
Texas transfer Ochaun Mathis was also held without a sack, but flashed some power and athleticism against the Northwestern front. Caleb Tannor had much the same night against the Wildcats, struggling to string together pressures and disrupt the backfield.
It was the complete opposite for the Northwestern defense however, looking confident and stout despite the numbers on the stat sheet.
Defensive end Adetomiwa Adeboware was incredible for the Wildcats, showing great power through each rep and proving how effective he can be as a run defender. He had several pressures throughout the game that should’ve been sacks, but the senior pass rusher certainly turned some heads.
However, cornerback Cameron Mitchell was the best overall defender in this game. Mitchell was incredibly sticky in coverage, showing quick feet, acute vision, and tight man skills that allowed to come down with the first interception of the night. Going forward, Mitchell is certainly a player to keep an eye on.