The Big Ten Entertains in Ireland

Big Ten season opener between Nebraska vs Northwestern
Brendan Moran – USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday the 2022-23 College Football season kicked off in a big way. One of the very first games was a Big Ten battle between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats. These two teams were lucky enough to play in Dublin Ireland where they put on quite the show as Northwestern came away with a 31-28 victory.

Last Season’s Woes

In 2021-22 both teams went through more than their fair share of frustration.

For Nebraska, it was the continued story from their previous seasons under Head Coach Scott Frost. They went 3-9 including eight losses by one score, eight or less, and one by nine. They played every team close and yet kept finding ways to lose.

Northwestern was basically the opposite, they struggled to play teams close because they could not score. They began the season 3-3 but finished on a six-game losing streak where they failed to score more than 14. They were outscored 205-68 in their last six, including four losses by at least four scores.

Based on how last season concluded for both teams, they desperately wanted to start this season with a good showing.

A Big Ten Battle

First Half

The game started with Nebraska in complete control.

The first drive of the game saw Nebraska drive 75 yards in eight plays over only 2:19 to score a big touchdown. The next three drives featured two punts and a field goal by Northwestern.

The Cornhuskers got the ball with only a couple of minutes left in the first. They once again cruised down the field. Over five minutes they went 80 yards in 14 plays to add another touchdown. After five total possessions, Nebraska held a 14-3 lead.

The script flipped in the second quarter as Northwestern began playing much better.

Following Nebraska’s second touchdown the Wildcats responded with a 1:01 drive where they went 75 yards in four plays for a touchdown to make it 17-10.

After three stagnant drives, Northwestern got the ball back a little over three minutes before halftime. Despite poor starting field position, they were able to march 82 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown to take the lead at 17-14.

Second Half

The second half began much like the first half with Nebraska dominating.

Following a punt by Northwestern to start the half, Nebraska went 88 yards in eight plays to retake the lead with a touchdown. One play later Northwestern fumbled and turned it over to the Cornhuskers. Taking full advantage of the miscue, Nebraska took 17 seconds to go 46 yards and add another touchdown. In the blink of an eye, the Cornhuskers had their 11-point lead back at 28-17.

This is when things begin to slip away from the Cornhuskers. Feeling that things are not going well enough Nebraska decides to attempt an onside kick. It failed and proved highly detrimental. The onside kick recovery for Northwestern gave them excellent starting field position at the 44-yard line. In five plays they were able to cut the lead down with their first touchdown of the second half.

Following this score, neither team was able to get the offense going. After three straight drives resulting in punts, it appeared that Northwestern was going to score. The Wildcats went 71 yards in 11 plays setting them up for a 36-yard field goal from the 18-yard line. Unfortunately, they were unable to convert and came up empty.

Nebraska aimed to capitalize, but instead, they once again made a major miscue. Quarterback Casey Thompson threw an interception which set up great field position for the Wildcats in a massive spot. Northwestern was able to go 42 yards in under a minute for the go-ahead touchdown to make it 31-28.

The next four drives resulted in two punts for each team. The fourth punt was by Northwestern to Nebraska, desperately in need of points.

They started the drive from their own four-yard line with just over two minutes reaming. On the fourth play, Thompson threw a ball that ricocheted off the hands of a receiver and into the hands of a Northwestern defender for the game-ending interception.

Final Notes

The 2022 season has begun with Nebraska in the recurring nightmare they cannot find their way out of. It was another painful loss by one score. They found more ways to injure their chances to win with the inexcusable decision to do an onside kick and two interceptions. With this, they are now 5-21 in one-score games under Scott Frost. In those 21 one-score losses this is their sixth loss by three.

Additionally, Nebraska has now lost three straight season openers. The last time they lost three in a row was the 1953-55 seasons. It is important to start the season with some good feelings, but they are not accomplishing that.

Despite two crucial interceptions, Nebraska’s QB Thompson impressed with 355 pass yards. The last time a Nebraska QB threw 355 or more yards and lost was October 6, 2018. In that game, Adrian Martinez threw 384 yards, but they lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 41-24.

For Northwestern this is a big step forward. This snapped their six-game losing streak and their streak of not scoring more than 14. Their 31 points are their most against a Big Ten opponent since their 2020 season opener when they beat the Maryland Terrapins 43-3.

Northwestern’s QB Ryan Hilinski also had a spectacular game with 314 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27/38 passing. The last time a Wildcat QB threw for over 300 yards in a game was October 13, 2018, when Clayton Thorson threw for 455 yards in a 34-31 OT victory over Nebraska.

The 2022 College Football season started with a highly entertaining matchup between Nebraska and Northwestern. Neither of these teams make the national spotlight often, but they made international highlights in a great Big Ten game in Dublin Ireland. It featured a common sight as Nebraska continued to struggle in close games and an uncommon sight as Northwestern broke out of their scoring slump. Both of these teams should be interesting to watch as this season unfolds.

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