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The Red Line to the Purple Line. Mustard’s Last Stand. Chicago’s Big Ten team.
When I think of Northwestern, I still remember the Alamo.
That is, the flea-flicker touchdown pass from Eric Crouch to Bobby Newcombe to Matt Davison, padding the Husker lead to 59-17 en route to a 66-17 Alamo Bowl win.
That was 20 years ago. That was a Northwestern team that ran a wide-open offense. That was a Northwestern team that reportedly talked trash, and even drew cheap shots from Husker players.
A much different Northwestern.
Twenty years later, the Wildcats are the classy, quiet team next door. Practitioners of good, fundamental and opportunistic football.
They are the solid tennis partner who stands on the baseline and returns every shot over the net, forcing the opponent to take chances or hit better shots.
And they are the perfect opponent for a Nebraska team looking to measure progress in Scott Frost’s third year.
Each week, the Two-Minute Drill provides an in-depth breakdown on all the key matchups that will decide a winner in the Husker game. Today we look at challenge Northwestern poses.
Think you’re more physical? Northwestern will show you how much.
Got leaks in your scheme or lineup? The Wildcats will tell you where.
Still haven’t cleaned up the turnovers or penalties? Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s bunch will take your charity and beat you.
Nebraska showed progress at Ohio State across the board. Then came the turnovers and penalties and mistakes.
You know what? Even if they had played a clean game, the Huskers weren’t going to beat those Buckeyes.
But Northwestern, on cozy, stately Ryan Field, will be a much more accurate gauge.
The Wildcats make you match their physicality and execution and rise above with speed, talent and playmaking.
And then there’s quarterback Adrian Martinez.
Peyton Ramsey, the graduate transfer, is no slouch. He led Indiana to victory in Lincoln last year.
But if Martinez is on his game, finding and hitting receivers, he’s got more weapons around him than Northwestern. And that apparently will include newcomer Omar Manning.
If this is the Martinez from 2018 — the one who went 25 of 35 for 251 yards on this same Ryan Field — then Nebraska stands a good chance to win.
Well, 2018 without the pair of interceptions or the fumble that the Wildcats returned for a touchdown in a game they rallied to win in overtime.
A turnover-prone Martinez won’t work Saturday. The Wildcats will be waiting. Northwestern already has produced six interceptions in two games.
Next time Kade Warner is open in the end zone? Take some off the throw and hit him in the numbers. In other words, make plays. Positive, winning plays.
This game will flash a light on Martinez’s game and progress.
The right answer for Martinez could set him on a winning path. The wrong answer? It will turn the conversation toward backup Luke McCaffrey.
What we see will be the truth. That’s what you get with Northwestern, which is looking for its first 3-0 start in the Big Ten since 2000.
A long time ago for NU. And the other NU.
The World-Herald's Sam McKewon makes his predictions for every Big Ten game this weekend, with a closer look at whether PJ Fleck and the Minnesota Gophers can get their first win.
» This is my favorite Big Ten trip and the favorite of many Husker fans, for obvious reasons. I particularly like riding the train to a college football game. Then walking out of the station and seeing Lake Michigan to the right and the intimate campus to the left.
Now some Husker fans might make the trip, but Chicago won’t be the same. Not with all the restrictions on restaurants and bars, many with curbside pickup only.
Too many great Chicago spots have closed in the pandemic, including a couple of my favorites: Mike Ditka’s and Pippin’s Tavern. To me, these places are the heart and soul of the great city.
Chicago is a tough town, broad shoulders and all that. Many businesses will survive, some will not. Until we meet again, stay strong, stay safe, Chicago.
» I appreciate the idea of the Huskers having a “chip on the shoulder” attitude. But that will work for about a quarter, if that.
Who exactly is Big Red mad at? The Big Ten presidents? Kevin Warren?
Neither will be on the field. Northwestern players wanted to play, just like Nebraska.
We saw the “Us Against the World” mentality with Bo Pelini teams. It’s not something that lasts. In this league, you have to bring the attitude every week, but it has nothing to do with anger. It’s a passion for good, sound football. Passion for winning.
» I was glad to hear NU defensive coordinator Erik Chinander say this week that the Husker staff would take some questions to the Big Ten office for clarification on when targeting is called. This is a good approach. You don’t have to be a fan of the Big Ten office, but you do have to work with them. It serves no purpose to start a grudge. You won’t win that war.
» Sorry to see the Fox “Big Noon Kickoff” crew won’t be on the show Saturday.
I’ve found myself watching that show Saturday mornings instead of ESPN’s “College GameDay.” The ESPN show has become a little self-important. I like the chemistry with Urban Meyer, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn.
Anybody with me?
» What’s “Saturday Nebraska?” It’s my salute to the greatest college football book of all time, Dan Jenkins’ “Saturday’s America.” It’s my Desert Island book, as in what would you want to read on a deserted island? Not Twitter.
» You heard it here last: Ramsey will get his share, but Martinez will get more, with a little help from his friends Wan’Dale and Luke. Huskers 31, Wildcats 21.
Why the Huskers must avoid a 0-2 start in the Big Ten? What new wrinkles to expect with Northwestern's offense? Sam McKewon and Evan Bland answer all the questions you need to know for Nebraska-Northwestern.