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2023 MAC Football Week 3 Game Recap: Nebraska Cornhuskers 35, Northern Illinois Huskies 11

Northern Illinois was in a position to take advantage of a sloppy, bad Nebraska team. Instead, it was a get-right-game for the Cornhuskers.

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-2) figured out the solution to their recent offensive woes: don’t start Jeff Sims. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois (1-2) has questions of their own to ponder after Rocky Lombardi had an atrocious outing at the helm of the Huskie offense.

Theose questions were both answered and raised respectively on Saturday night, as Nebraska took care of the floundering Huskies in a 35-11 dispatching that gave new Husker head man Matt Rhule his first win as coach.

Lombardi threw 11 completions on 28 attempts for a pathetic 73 yards, getting intecepted once before being replaced when the game was out of reach. Ethan Hampton came on in relief, going 6-of-8 for 50 yards and a touchdown toss to tight end Chris Carter with four seconds left in the contest. NIU would clinch a two-pointer afterwards on a pass to Billy Dozier.

Nebraska field general Heinrich Haarberg, a sophomore from nearby Kearney, had a superb outing, throwing for a 105.9 passer rating featuring 158 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The Huskers also ran for 224 yards, with Haarberg accounting for 98 of them, making him Nebraska’s top runner for the day. Gabe Ervin Jr. (14 carries, 67 yards) and Anthony Grant (seven carries, 41 yards) also had rushing scores for the Huskers.

Nebraska’s defense accounted for less tackles than the Huskies, but nabbed three sacks and five tackles-for-loss, compared to Northern Illinois’ single sack and two tackles-for-loss. The Huskers also grabbed one of Lombardi’s many errant passes in a performance he’ll surely want back.

South Dakota transfer linebacker Nate Valcarcel led the NIU defensive effort with nine tackles, while James Ester collected both of NIU’s TFLs. George Gumbs is credited with NIU’s only sack of the day.

This performance only raises more questions about the program health of the Huskies, and we’ll explore that more in detail in this week’s power rankings and roundtable discussion—make sure not to miss either!

Northern Illinois plays Tulsa (1-2, AAC) at home next week, and Nebraska plays Louisiana Tech (2-2, CUSA) at home before playing host to #2 Michigan.