Northwestern rallies past Nebraska 31-28 in opener in Dublin
DUBLIN (AP) — Ryan Hilinski threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns to help the Northwest beat Nebraska 31-28 in Saturday’s season opener in Ireland sca.
Northwestern gave the Cornhusks their seventh straight loss, dating back to last season, and added more pressure to embattled coach Scott Frost, who set up a game-changing third-quarter offside kick for a loss The ball took responsibility.
“I made that call, so it’s on me,” Frost said of the offside kick after Husk took a 28-17 lead. “At the moment of the game, I think all the momentum is on our side. I think if we get it, we can end the game.
“You can’t really see them scoring 14 in a row and we’re going to be in trouble after we start the second half offense. Those are excuses again. If I had to (do) it, I wouldn’t call.”
The Wildcats finished with 528 yards and got some revenge after a 56-7 loss to the Huskers last October. Nebraska hasn’t won since then.
After a 3-9 season, Nebraska was looking for a season to bounce back and improve on offense, but the team and many of the fans who made the trip went home very disappointed.
Quarterback Casey Thompson had a big game in his Huskers debut, throwing for 355 yards, but a fourth-quarter turnover was costly. Cameron Mitchell intercepted Thompson’s pass and returned it for nearly 40 yards. Six games later, Evan Hull ran in from the 4 to give the Wildcats a 31-28 lead. Hull completed 22 carries for 119 yards.
Xander Mueller took a pass from receiver Wyatt Liewer with 1:27 left and the Wildcats sealed the victory.
Anthony Grant rushed for two points in the third quarter, including a 46-yard one, to give the Huskers a 28-17 lead. He put the ball in from 3 yards on his last drive to give Nebraska the lead after the Wildcats went into the half with a 17-14 lead. Grant had 19 carries for 101 yards.
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald called the offside kick in the game a “huge momentum swing.”
“We went down and hit it,” he said of Cam Porter’s 3-yard touchdown that straightened the gap to 28-24.
The Husks were up 14-3 after Thompson threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to teammate Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda before hitting the ball from the 1 early in the second quarter . Garcia Castaneda had four catches for 120 yards.
But Hilinski ended a terrific first half when he found Donny Navarro in the back of the box and he scored from 6 yards to give the Wildcats a win with 25 seconds left in the half. 17-14 lead.
Earlier, Shilinski hit a wide-open Raymond Niro III on a game-action pass for 41 yards.
Nebraska drove again after Nile’s touchdown and linebacker Grayson Mays took the ball away from Garcia Castaneda after finishing 24 yards from the northwest 11-yard line.
all for victory
Given the losing streak, Frost was asked about his future as a coach: “You have to win in this business to keep your job. It’s just like that. I love Nebraska, I love Nebraska California. We have to turn things around.”
He said he would not consider stepping down: “Absolutely not. … As long as I can fight, I will fight those guys.
Shilinski credits the offensive line with protecting him — and he’s not fired.
“It’s the best feeling when I can sit there and be patient with the ball and watch the court as a quarterback,” he said. “Today, I felt calm in my pocket. I felt like I could see the whole pitch.”
Northwest: The Wildcats looked as though they found a quarterback in Shilinski, who completed 27 of 38 passes.
Nebraska: More questions from Frost. The Huskers lost all of their games by single digits last season, and now they’re losing one more. Despite two interceptions, Thompson played a big role. In their first scoring drive of the third quarter, he scrambled a pass to Garcia-Castaneda on the left side of the third and 8 for 58 yards.
The concession stand once offered free beer during a game when they lost internet connection at the stadium. Aviva Stadium is cashless and they choose not to turn away thirsty fans. Ronan McGowan said he lined up for 40 minutes and missed part of the game: “They did the right thing.”
Nebraska will host North Dakota on Saturday for the first of four home games in a row, including a Sept. 17 matchup with Oklahoma.
Northwestern rests next weekend and hosts Duke for the first of three straight games at Ryan Field on Sept. 10.
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