Published October 19, 2014
Tuscaloosa, AL – Evanston, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - Ameer Abdullah rushed for 146 yards and four touchdowns, including three in the second half to lift No. 19 Nebraska to a 38-17 win over Northwestern on Saturday night.
It was the least-competitive game the teams have played since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011. Each of the first three were decided by three points or fewer, including last year's win by the Cornhuskers on a Hail Mary pass.
Abdullah scored on three 1-yard runs in the third and fourth quarters to give the Cornhuskers (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) a 35-17 lead after they trailed 17-14 at halftime.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El on a trick play in the first half and had 221 yards passing.
"We were honestly just killing ourselves first half," Armstrong said. "We just didn't put any points on the board, and I wasn't delivering balls the right way. Guys were miscommunicating on certain routes, and guys weren't doing the right things. But we came in [at halftime] after the first half, fixed those mistakes."
Northwestern (3-4, 2-2) has dropped two in a row since a three-game winning streak that included victories over Big Ten foes Penn State and then-No. 17 Wisconsin.
"They had great adjustments at halftime and really just shut us down offensively for the rest of the half, which put our defense in too tough a situation," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "They were out there way too long against an explosive offense."
Justin Jackson rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns in the loss and Trevor Siemian passed for 173 yards.
Abdullah scored his go-ahead touchdown with 4:27 left in the third quarter one play after Pierson-El caught an 18-yard pass on 3rd-and-13. He set up his next touchdown himself with a 50-yard run to the goal line, making it 28-17 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
His third straight touchdown and Drew Brown's 33-yard field goal came in the last 7:36 as Nebraska outscored the Wildcats 24-0 in the second half.
Jackson broke a tackle near the goal line on his 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give Northwestern a 7-0 lead and Brown missed a 39-yard field goal try wide-right for Nebraska after that.
But Siemian was intercepted in the end zone by Nate Gerry early in the second quarter on a pass into triple coverage, and the Cornhuskers turned it into an 80-yard drive capped by Abdullah's 1-yard score to tie the game.
Northwestern re-took the lead on Jackson's second touchdown, a 5-yard run with under two minutes remaining in the first half that came after Miles Shuler had a 13-yard catch on third down and Nebraska was whistled for roughing Siemian.
The Cornhuskers tied the score on a trick play, using a wide receiver reverse to free Armstrong in the right side of the end zone, where Pierson-El hit him with a 16-yard strike.
Jack Mitchell's 29-yard field goal before halftime gave Northwestern a 17-14 lead.
Shuler was taken off the field on a stretcher after running head-first into a tackler in the third quarter. The school said he was alert and responsive and being taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure ... The last time a Nebraska quarterback had a touchdown catch was Sept. 13, 2008, when Joe Ganz caught a 20-yard strike from running back Marlon Lucky in a 38-7 win over New Mexico State ... The Huskers are 6-2 all-time in the series, including 3-1 since 2011 ... Nebraska is home next Saturday against Rutgers and Northwestern is on a bye.