Heinrich Haarberg runs for a touchdown against Northern Illinois. Photo credits: Hamilton Reinbold

In front of 86,875 fans, the bright lights were shining on Head Coach Matt Rhule as Saturday night marked his first home game. The Nebraska Faithful packed the stands hoping for a change in what has been the making of another rebuilding year. With Jeff Sims’ turnover issues and Nebraska fans becoming impatient, a quarterback change appeared imminent. 


The Huskers offense has been scuffling through the first two games of the season. After a heartbreaking loss in Minnesota and a deflating one in Colorado, the Nebraska offense is still searching for its identity. From sloppy false start penalties to costly fumbles, the Huskers’ Offensive Coordinator Marcus Satterfield turned to Kearney, Nebraska native, Heinrich Haarberg. 


Heinrich dazzled in his first drive as he led the Nebraska offense 55 yards before finding Billy Kemp in the flat for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Haarberg later connected with Thomas Fidone on a 16-yard touchdown pass, before gashing the Huskies’ defense on a 20-yard rushing touchdown. Heinrich led the Huskers to a 35-11 win over Northern Illinois. 


“I think he did what he was called upon to do,” Coach Rhule said about Haarberg. “His ability to run the quarterback draw, run the quarterback options…and that slowed down people’s blitz packages. I thought Heinrich did some really high-level things and we will keep working” 


The offense came around quietly putting together a balanced offensive attack totaling 382 yards with 224 of them in the running game. However, more of the same began to leak its way through the Nebraska offensive line. A team bitten by the turnover bug heavily in the first two games, coughed up the ball once, a strip-sack inside of their 5-yard line. Yet, the defense didn’t break character.


“That first turnover, down in the red zone, the defense going out there and getting the stop and holding them to a field goal, that’s really the culture we want to have.” Head coach Matt Rhule said of his defense. “I challenge them to view this themselves, think of this team as a defensive team. People often say it was an ugly game because everyone wants to just see offense, But I mean they are fun to watch,” Coach Rhule concluded. 


The Blackshirts fed off the fan energy and delivered five tackles for loss, three sacks, and forced nine punts while also intercepting Rocky Lombardi midway through the fourth. The Huskers’ defense yielded a mere 74 yards of total offense before a 75-yard “B-team” defense allowed a touchdown.


“This defense is playing as a very ferocious unit,” cornerback Quinton Newsome said. The defense was wreaking havoc all night causing rushed passes, little rushing gains, and 11 third down failures. Defensive tackle Nash Hutmacher said the crowd paid dividends by feeding the team all night long.


“The crowd was crazy. They always bring the energy…that’s why they are the best fans in the country,” Hutmacher said. 


But the biggest note from Coach Rhule was he said the team believed in themselves. “To me, this is about belief. They showed a lot of belief and a lot of belief in each other,” Rhule said. The Huskers believed in themselves and with what Haarberg had to offer and the team delivered Rhule his first win as a member of Nebraska. 


As Nebraska found a way to win tonight’s game with Haarberg as the starting quarterback, coach Rhule remained very non-committal towards announcing a quarterback for next week. “We found out both quarterbacks are good quarterbacks. We have a good situation. I won’t talk about hypotheticals,” Rhule said. With the offense thriving under Haarberg and the mental mistakes being limited, it may be very difficult to return to Sims as QB1. 


As Nebraska enjoys this win, they will face off at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday in Lincoln against Louisiana Tech. That game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. 


Noah Douglas is a student of Sports Media and Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Noah is from Pewaukee, Wisconsin where he graduated high school and graduated Waukesha County Technical College with his Fire Protection Technician Associates Degree. Noah is focussed on becoming a Sports Journalist in the future.