Published: Sun, September 17, 2017
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Tanner Lee threw two touchdowns in first quarter … to Northern Illinois

Tanner Lee threw two touchdowns in first quarter … to Northern Illinois

The Huskies not only showed up for a game, but walked away with a 21-17 win, forcing three turnovers and returning two of those turnovers for touchdowns.

Northern Illinois outgained the Panthers 499-187 one week after kicker Christian Hagan's potential game-tying 39-yard field-goal attempt hit the crossbar in the waning seconds of the season opener.

The Huskies led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, despite only 32 yards of offense.

"We have to prove more about who we are, for sure", Riley said.

Fortunate or unfortunate, Nebraska took its first lead with 11:14 remaining on Lee's 1-yard quarterback sneak.

The Huskies got off to a hot start defensively when senior cornerback Shawun Lurry picked off Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee on a bubble screen and took it back 87 yards for a pick six, giving Northern Illinois a 7-0 lead with 11:24 left in the first quarter.

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"I feel as a defense we're going to be fine", Bootle told reporters. I think they got exhausted because the [Nebraska] offense stayed on the field there for a minute, but then as soon as the offense came back and took the lead, I think the defense fed off of that again. "It's disappointing, and we couldn't get out of that hole". That inconsistency Riley mentioned was evident for all to see against Northern Illinois.

But finally given a lead in the fourth quarter, there was a crack.

When they fall behind at half, the Huskers are 7-8 with Riley at the helm.

"I think as an offense, we've got to play better, and I know we will", Lee said. I will provide leadership as I have up to this point and continue to stay positive and I'm very, very optimistic about what we have. We have to better identifying quality.

The early miscues took a mental toll. And if the thought of Nebraska falling behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter at home against a team from the Mid-American Conference and being unable to recover from that sounds odd, that's because it is.

"It started pretty early", Riley said of his players' pressing, "and it did not change".

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The latest result was off the heels of a loss to OR where NU fell behind 42-14 after two quarters. Yes, Northern Illinois is now 4-1 in their last five games against the Big Ten, but this doesn't look as strong as some past Huskies' teams. They no doubt missed starting running back Tre Bryant, who was injured a week ago, but the biggest issue was the offensive line.

Said Nebraska linebacker Luke Gifford: "We are going to keep busting our tails".

"I've said, and I won't back down on this, I like this team and I like their work ethic", he said.

Nebraska is now 1-2 on the season after losses to OR and NIU.

Just two weeks ago, standing at the same podium after a skin-of-their-teeth season-opening victory against Arkansas State, Riley said he thought his offense could score every time it had the ball.

Nebraska put on a display similar to its performance last week in Eugene, Oregon - night and day performances between the first and second halves - sealing its fate with an interception in the final minutes of the game.

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"Obviously we are not playing good enough on offense right now".

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