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NIU Huskies vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers: Five Things Learned

What did we find out in the Huskies upset?

Northern Illinois v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

The Northern Illinois Huskies marched into Lincoln, Nebraska and walked away with a 21-17 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers yesterday. So what did we learn from the tight battle?

The Huskie Defense is LEGIT!

The Huskies forced three turnovers, all interceptions, against the Cornhuskers and even returned two for touchdowns...which ended up accounting for 67% of NIU’s points in the contest. NIU even held Nebraska scoreless for the entire first half...something that hasn’t been done since 2007.

The entire game the Huskie D kept the Huskers offense in check and, although they bent, they very rarely broke. Whether they rushed three, four, or blitzed NIU was able to get pressure on Tanner Lee and force bad throws. NIU chalked up three sacks, eight tackles for a loss, and seven QB Hurries. When Lee did trow the ball, the secondary was on fire; amassing three picks, seven break ups, and a pass batted down at the line.

The run defense once again looked amazing, allowing just 2.4 yards per rush (85 yards on 36 carries) against a very solid offense.

NIU continued to show that their defense is a force to be reckoned with this year and the rest of the conference might want to take notice. The Huskies finally have a great defense...look out MAC!

Special Teams is still...Special.

The Huskies once again struggled with special teams plays. Christian Hagan had a chance to extend the lead to 17-0 midway through the second quarter but pushed the ball wide right.

Then, more importantly, special teams allowed Nebraska to get back into the game. On a punt halfway through the third quarter Jalen Embry muffed a punt at the 24-yard line...the ball popped over his head and rolled inside the 10, before the Cornhuskers were able to scoop it up at the NIU 2-yard line. Two plays later, the shutout was over and it was suddenly a 14-7 game.

Yes, NIU did manage to block a field goal right before the first half ended...but, for the most part, the special teams woes continued this week.

The Huskie Offense Still Has Some Room to Grow

NIU managed three scores all game...two of them came on defense.

Yes, Nebraska is a B1G team but their defense has been awful. They gave up 497 yards (and 36 points) against Arkansas State and then 566 yards (and 42 points) last week against Oregon. NIU, however, only mustered 213 total yards (128 passing and 85 rushing) and a single offensive score.

The play-calling, while improving some, has still been iffy and ineffective. The passing attack has certainly been lacking with very few differing pass plays being called. NIU might have won but it certainly wasn’t because of the high-powered, effective attack Huskie fans are used to.

Santacaterina Should Keep the Starting Job

I said it last week and I’ll say it again. Daniel Santacaterina is the best option for NIU at quarterback. Sure, he wasn’t nearly as effective as he was against EIU last week but he was still very efficient and made the plays when they mattered.

He completed 15 of 22 pass attempts (68.2%) for 128 yards against Nebraska, including a beautiful 47-yard bomb to Christian Blake when NIU trailed midway through the fourth quarter.

His accuracy is leaps and bounds above Graham and he actually looks at multiple receivers and will check down if needed.

If the win against the Huskers doesn't convince Head Coach Rod Carey that Santa deserves to start, I don’t know what will.

Nebraska Might Just Be In a “Rebuilding” Phase...

As awesome as the win against Nebraska is (or any P5 team really), maybe the Cornhuskers aren’t as dominating as we thought they would be.

After struggling against a Sun Belt team, losing to Oregon, and then falling to could just be that Nebraska is not the same team we saw go 7-0 to start the season last year.

They have the talent to do a lot in the B1G on paper...but talent on paper and talent on the field are two very different things. Sometimes it just doesn’t transfer over...and maybe we saw that yesterday afternoon.

Or MAYBE, just maybe, NIU is better than people think.