Nebraska drops to program-worst 0-6 with heartbreaking loss to Northwestern

Nebraska is now 0-6 after a loss to Northwestern. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Nebraska is now 0-6 after a loss to Northwestern. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Nebraska is off to an 0-6 start for the first time in program history. And it reached that low in heartbreaking fashion.

The Huskers, who haven’t won a game in 350 days (since Oct. 28, 2017), held a 31-21 lead with 5:41 to play, but blew that lead and eventually lost 34-31 in overtime.

Nebraska got the ball to open the extra frame, but bungled away its possession. Instead of trying to go ahead with a field goal, the Huskers went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 16. But a bad snap doomed the play from the start, forcing Adrian Martinez to throw up a prayer. But the prayer went unanswered, falling into the arms of Northwestern’s Drake Anderson.

(via ABC)
(via ABC)

From there, all Northwestern needed was a score of any kind for the win. The Wildcats kept it conservative and walked away with a win when Drew Luckenbaugh drilled a game-winning 37-yard field goal. The clutch kick delivered a brutal loss to the Huskers and put Northwestern back at .500 with a 3-3 record.

Nebraska blew a 10-point lead in the final six minutes

With Nebraska leading 28-21, it felt like Tre Neal made a potentially game-sealing play when he intercepted Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson. That interception set up a field goal that extended Nebraska’s lead to 31-21 with 5:41 to play.

Aside from a 61-yard Thorson touchdown pass to Flynn Nagel, Northwestern’s offense hadn’t done much in the second half. But on the ensuing possession, the Wildcats were able to move the ball. That drive eventually stalled, but it did allow the Wildcats to cut Nebraska’s lead to 31-24 with a field goal with 2:27 remaining.

From there, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald curiously called for an onside kick. It failed, giving the Huskers the ball near midfield. The Wildcats forced a stop and used all three of their timeouts to keep time on the clock, but Nebraska punter Isaac Armstrong pinned the Wildcats at the 1-yard line with a brilliant punt.

Northwestern forced overtime with a 99-yard drive

Despite the awful field position, the Northwestern offense quickly marched down the field. A dumb roughing the passer penalty on Nebraska’s Carlos Davis certainly helped matters. Davis hit Thorson high and late as he delivered a pass from the end zone, giving Northwestern much-needed breathing room.

From there, Thorson picked apart the Huskers’ secondary, completing six straight passes. His last three were the biggest. First he found Flynn Nagel for 32 yards to move the team into Nebraska territory. Next he hit Bennett Skowronek for 27 yards all the way down to the Nebraska 5 with 17 seconds to play. After stopping the clock with a spike, Thorson forced overtime by connecting with JJ Jefferson for a five-yard touchdown.

Thorson made mistakes on Saturday, but came up in the clutch when his team needed him. He finished 41-of-64 for 455 yards on the afternoon.

This is a new low for Nebraska

Nebraska is one of the most-storied programs in college football history. Beginning with its first season in 1890, the Huskers had never started 0-6 — until 2018. The previous low was 0-5 in 1945, a mark tied with last week’s loss to Wisconsin. Nebraska controlled play for the duration of Saturday’s game and looked well on its way to making sure a new record was not set.

Instead, the Huskers utterly collapsed and remain one of just four teams without a win in 2018. Perhaps next week’s visit from Minnesota will be the game to break the losing streak.

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