Published Saturday, October 20, 2012 AT 10:03 PM / Updated at 10:32 PM
Nebraska-Northwestern: Tracking the offense, defense
Rich Kaipust Omaha World-Herald

World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust takes a look at key players, plays and more on both sides of the ball.

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TRACKING THE OFFENSE

NU star: Quincy Enunwa didn’t score either of the last two touchdowns for Nebraska, but the junior receiver had a major hand in setting them up. Enunwa had back-to-back catches of 7 and 30 yards before the Huskers pulled within 28-23, then started the winning drive with a 31-yard reception before a 6-yard catch on third-and-3. Enunwa finished with six receptions for 110 yards.

Highlight: Taylor Martinez was 5 for 5 on the Huskers’ go-ahead possession. The junior started with the 31-yard throw to Enunwa, then finished it with a 25-yard strike to Jamal Turner before his 7-yard TD throw to tight end Ben Cotton. The six-play, 76-yard drive took 2:02.

Busted play: Nebraska’s blocking scheme broke down badly on a fourth-and-3 play from the Northwestern 28 midway through the third quarter. Tight end Kyler Reed cut back inside and collided with two pulling linemen as Martinez ran to his right, and defensive end Dean Lowry was untouched as he buried Martinez for a 10-yard loss.

Our take: Nebraska had a bad habit of starting drives with some success and then failing to sustain them. NU still finished with 543 total yards despite twice having to stay on the sideline after fumbled punts. Martinez was nails down the stretch — after nearly being intercepted on back-to-back throws — by completing 10 of his last 11 passes for 140 yards. Another setback for I-back Rex Burkhead, however, makes you wonder what the Huskers will be getting from their leader down the stretch.

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TRACKING THE DEFENSE

NU star: There has been talk of Ciante Evans playing his best football as of late, and the junior came through Saturday in his nickel role. Being credited with only one pass breakup was an obvious oversight, especially considering he made plays on back-to-back throws on one Northwestern three-and-out in the third quarter as Nebraska was trying desperately to stay in the game after the Wildcats took a 21-10 lead. NU coach Bo Pelini said Evans played “absolutely phenomenal.”

Highlight: Nebraska stiffened after Northwestern had first-and-10 at the Huskers’ 39 with just under two minutes remaining. Stanley Jean-Baptiste almost stopped the drive with an interception on first down — just failing to hold on to a Trevor Siemian pass intended for Tony Jones — before NU had the Wildcats trying a 53-yard field goal they would miss with 1:10 to go.

Busted play: Nebraska hit the trifecta on the 80-yard run by Venric Mark in the third quarter. Two defensive linemen got sealed badly to create a huge hole, linebacker David Santos missed his gap and safety Daimion Stafford took a bad angle on a speedy back to spring it the rest of the way.

Our take: Take out the 80-yard run and Nebraska limited Northwestern to 221 total yards on its other 74 offensive snaps. The Huskers did a first-half number on Northwestern, minimizing the Wildcats’ down-to-down production and not allowing big plays until the 26-yard touchdown pass just before halftime. The bye week helped after the 63-point debacle at Ohio State.

About Rich Kaipust

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football. You can follow Rich on Twitter (@RKaipustOWH) or email him at rich.kaipust@owh.com