In an overtime game, generally there is one defining play that determines the outcome. However, in Nebraska’s 31-24 overtime loss to Northwestern, the Wildcats ripped off two solid runs to give themselves a first-and-goal from the 2 and punched it in four plays later, while the Huskers’ drive was doomed from the start and Nebraska didn’t even have a chance on its fourth down play.
An exciting game ended on a deflating whimper for the Huskers.
However, one play swung the momentum, infused some excitement into the stadium and gave the Huskers a chance to play from ahead in the second half. This week’s play of the game is Marcus Newby’s 49-yard pick-six early in the second half.
Nebraska was lucky to enter halftime down 17-14 after Northwestern missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired. The Wildcats got another chance to extend their lead as they received the ball to open the second half. After runs of 9 and 5 on their first two plays, it looked like Northwestern was ready to march right down the field and create some separation.
However, on the third play of the half, the Wildcats ran a pass play on first-and-10. They set up with trips to the left side of the field, with the two underneath men running crossing routes and the point of the triangle running up the seam.
Senior safety Joshua Kalu checked the outside receiver initially then passed him along while senior outside linebacker Marcus Newby picked up the man running up the seam. The inside receiver got a free run over the middle. Northwestern quarterback Thorson looked elsewhere but came back and targeted the player that Kalu passed along.
The pass sailed over the receiver’s head, however, and went right into Newby’s hands near midfield. Kalu and redshirt freshman defensive end Ben Stille ran ahead to serve as lead blockers, but Newby ran right by a pair of offensive linemen trying to track him down and brushed off a weak attempt at a tackle by Thorson before jogging into the end zone.
“The pick-six was a beautiful play,” defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said.
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) November 4, 2017
The touchdown gave Nebraska its first lead of the game at 21-17, and the Huskers had a few different chances to create some separation in the second half (chances they did not capitalize on, unfortunately).
Newby finished with 10 tackles, tying his career-high set in week two at Oregon. He also added a pass break-up to his interception, the first pick of his career. Newby missed the first two games of Big Ten play with a hamstring injury but has been relied upon heavily since Luke Gifford went down.
“Now that he’s been healthy enough to practice, he’s been healthy enough to practice hard,” Diaco said. “He’s been, really, our top practice player. So no one on the unit or no coach would be shocked or surprised that he was going to have a good game.
“I remember talking to him this morning and grabbing him and specifically telling him that he was going to have a really good game, and I believe in that. I believe in practice, and then in-game production. It’s definitely shown up for him. He played a really solid game last week and he played another really solid game this week.”
Newby’s pick-six did not ultimately lead to a win, but it certainly put Nebraska in a position to play from ahead and earn a victory. That’s why Marcus Newby’s 49-yard pick-six is this week’s Play of the Game.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.