Published Saturday, October 20, 2012 AT 11:06 PM / Updated at 11:06 PM
Nebraska-Northwestern: Hamstrung Huskers
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

Nebraska’s defense forced 12 punts and the offense gained 543 yards. But a series of execution errors and mental blunders nearly kept the Huskers from pulling out a 29-28 win at Ryan Field.

A sampling of the mistakes Nebraska hopes to clean up next week vs. Michigan:

>> On Nebraska’s first offensive drive, quarterback Taylor Martinez overthrows an open Jamal Turner in the end zone and the Huskers have to settle for a field goal.

>> A Nebraska fumble recovery of a muffed punt is negated by a personal foul whistled on safety Daimion Stafford, who needlessly pushes a Wildcat in the back 30 yards behind the play.

>> Punt returner Ameer Abdullah muffs a punt on his own 14-yard line that Northwestern recovers and converts into a touchdown.

>> Kenny Bell replaces Abdullah at punt returner and promptly muffs a second punt that’s recovered by Northwestern. Had Bell been able to secure the ball, Nebraska would have started at the Wildcats’ 38-yard line.

>> Tight end Kyler Reed catches a 20-yard pass from Martinez, but has the ball punched loose for the third fumble recovered by the Wildcats.

>> On third-and-1 from its own 34, Nebraska calls a play-action pass instead of a power run, and the play ends with no gain. Then Brett Maher shanks a punt for 16 yards.

>> With the Huskers in striking range for a field goal just before halftime, Martinez takes a 9-yard sack and Nebraska eventually punts.

>> Northwestern’s first drive of the second half produces an 80-yard touchdown run by Venric Mark, but Nebraska’s poor execution on defense allows it to happen. Linebacker Will Compton vacates his gap to chase quarterback Kain Colter, but Compton had help on Colter from safety P.J. Smith. Mark runs untouched to the end zone.

>> On fourth down deep in Northwestern territory, coach Bo Pelini turns down a field goal and goes for it. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck calls for a shortside quarterback counter — the same play the Huskers had been running all day. For some reason, tight end Reed thought the play would be run to the wide side of the field, so he collides with the two blockers designed to pull in front of Martinez. Martinez is hit for a 10-yard loss as a result.

>> On third-and-14, Nebraska wide receiver Taariq Allen draws a pass interference penalty. First down, right? Wrong. Nebraska is whistled for having an ineligible man downfield and a sideline behavior warning. So it’s third-and-19. Martinez completes a 34-yard pass to Turner. First down, right? Wrong. Jeremiah Sirles is whistled for lining up too deep in the backfield. On third-and-24, Martinez overthrows an open Kenny Bell.

>> Defensive back Antonio Bell is flagged for holding on Northwestern’s next drive, which turns out to be a touchdown drive.

>> Martinez throws two passes straight to Northwestern defenders, which they drop.

>> On the Wildcats’ final drive, Husker corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste drops a sure interception. Northwestern misses a field goal, but Jean-Baptiste could have sealed the win.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at sam.mckewon@owh.com. And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.