Oct 9, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule reacts in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rhule officially named head coach at Nebraska

One day after word of negotiations had leaked, Nebraska officially named former Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule its new head coach on Saturday morning.

The contract will be for eight seasons, and the school plans to introduce Rhule in a press conference in Lincoln on Monday.

“It is a privilege to welcome coach Matt Rhule, his wife Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” Nebraska Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Trev Alberts said in a statement. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

Rhule, who had college success as a head coach at both Temple (28-23 in four seasons) and Baylor (19-20 in three seasons), was fired in October by the Panthers after a 1-4 start. He had an 11-27 record in two-plus seasons with the team.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field.

“My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule, 47, was 47-43 in the college ranks with Temple (2013-16) and Baylor (2017-19). At the latter, he was credited with turning around a program that had been decimated by scandal under former coach Art Briles. In Rhule’s final season there, the Bears were 11-3 and played in the Sugar Bowl.

Nebraska is in another once-proud program in desperate need of a turnaround after firing coach Scott Frost as the Cornhuskers started the season at 1-2. Nebraska has won five national championships but none since 1997, when Frost was the quarterback.

Frost was 16-31 in four-plus seasons with Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers haven’t won a bowl game since 2015 and last won 10 games in 2012. They finished this season with a 4-8 record (3-6 Big Ten) after posting a 24-17 win over Iowa on Friday.

–Field Level Media

Nov 25, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Casey Thompson throws a pass against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Casey Thompson, Nebraska defeat Iowa to damage Hawkeyes’ title chances

Casey Thompson completed three touchdown passes and Trey Palmer had nine catches for 165 yards as Nebraska held off Iowa 24-17 Saturday at Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa backup quarterback Alex Padilla tried to rally the Hawkeyes back from a 24-0 deficit in the second half after Spencer Petras suffered an arm injury before halftime.

In Iowa’s second-to-last possession, Padilla completed a 15-yard pass to Luke Lachey for a first down to the Iowa 33, but he threw four consecutive incompletions thereafter for a turnover on downs with 2:06 left.

After Iowa forced Nebraska to punt with 1:05 remaining, Padilla was intercepted by Chris Kolarevic on a fourth-and-8 play at Iowa’s 22.

Padilla was 16 of 33 for 141 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Thompson passed for 278 yards while completing 20 of 30 passes for Nebraska, which snapped a seven-game losing streak against Iowa.

The Hawkeyes (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten) were in position to win the Big Ten West Division with a victory after putting together a four-game winning streak entering the game.

They can still win the division if Purdue loses at Indiana and Illinois loses at Northwestern on Saturday.

Nebraska (4-8, 3-6) took control at the start not having to punt through its first four possessions.

A missed field goal by Timmy Bleekrode of 32 yards in Nebraska’s first drive was followed by an 87-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Palmer to put the Cornhuskers ahead 7-0 with 8:45 left in the first quarter.

Bleekrode converted on a 21-yard field goal and Thompson connected on an 18-yard touchdown to Palmer in the next two possessions.

The Cornhuskers increased the lead to 24-0 with 12:15 left in the third quarter on Thompson’s 14-yard pass to Marcus Washington.

Iowa’s Kaleb Johnson then capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 44-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 24-7. Johnson had 109 yards on 16 rushes.

Nebraska’s offense was forced to punt on its next two possessions.

Iowa scored on 14-yard touchdown pass from Padilla to Lachey with 6:49 remaining to cut the lead to 24-14.

A fumble by Nebraska’s Rahmir Johnson was then recovered by Iowa’s Logan Klemp at the Nebraska 27.

Drew Stevens made a 45-yard field goal with 5:41 left to cut the lead to 24-17.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA;  Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule during the second half against the San Francisco 49ers  at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Nebraska expected to name Matt Rhule next head coach

Nebraska and former Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule are ironing out a deal that will make him the Cornhuskers’ next coach, ESPN reported Friday.

Rhule, who previously coached at Temple and Baylor, was fired in October by the Panthers after a 1-4 start. He had an 11-27 record in two-plus seasons with the team.

In an interview with NFL Network earlier on Tuesday, he said he wanted to coach again.

“It didn’t end the way I wanted it to. But I’m proud I never lost the locker room,” Rhule said. “I’m proud those guys fought and stood up for me til the very end. I hope I get another chance to coach. I’d do some things better football-wise.”

Rhule, 47, was 47-43 in the college ranks with Temple (2013-16) and Baylor (2017-19). At the latter, he was credited with turning around a program that had been decimated by scandal under former coach Art Briles.

In Rhule’s final season there, the Bears were 11-3 and played in the Sugar Bowl.

Nebraska is in another once-proud program in desperate need of a turnaround after firing coach Scott Frost as the Huskers started the season at 1-2. Nebraska has won five national championships but none since 1997, when Frost was the quarterback.

Frost was 16-31 in four-plus seasons.

The Cornhuskers haven’t won a bowl game since 2015 and last won 10 games in 2012. They were 3-8 (2-6 Big Ten) entering Friday’s season finale against Iowa.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Darryl Peterson (17) and linebacker Jordan Turner (54) react as Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) looks on during the game at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa can get Big Ten title shot by beating Nebraska

After losing three consecutive conference games, Iowa stands one victory from the Big Ten championship game thanks to a four-game winning streak.

Iowa, at one point, was 3-4 overall and 1-3 in conference play. Then came victories over Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota, pushing the Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) in position to play either Ohio State or Michigan in the Big Ten title game.

A victory over Nebraska (3-8, 2-6) on Friday at Iowa City, Iowa, will make it happen.

“Really happy for our guys,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who was embroiled in criticism after the early struggles this season. “Really happy locker room. That’s November football, whatever it takes to get it done.”

Iowa has won seven straight games against Nebraska, which is likely playing its last game under interim head coach Mickey Joseph.

The Cornhuskers lost five consecutive Big Ten games after starting 2-1, including a painful defeat last week.

Nebraska was competitive in the 15-14 home loss to Wisconsin but fell short when the Badgers scored on a touchdown run with 35 seconds left.

The Cornhuskers’ offense totaled 171 yards, with 106 yards passing and 65 yards on the ground.

Casey Thompson completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 106 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

“Take a hat off to these kids,” said Joseph, whose team has lost three of the five games in the losing streak by a touchdown or less. “Just a good character group. A group that’s not going to quit.”

Iowa limited Minnesota to 87 passing yards in the 13-10 victory last week — the third time this season an opponent has passed for less than 100 yards.

This is the first season since 1929 that the Hawkeyes’ defense has allowed 10 or fewer points in eight games. The 1929 team gave up 28 points the entire eight-game season.

Jack Campbell, a linebacker, had a fourth-quarter interception against Minnesota and also tallied 10 tackles — his seventh game of 10 tackles or more this season. Campbell is now 20th in school history with 287 career tackles.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) throws a pass against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz leads fourth-quarter comeback against Nebraska

Graham Mertz threw a touchdown pass and ran for the winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining as Wisconsin defeated Nebraska 15-14 in a Big Ten game Saturday in Lincoln, Neb.

The Badgers (6-5, 4-4), who never led until the final minute, took over at midfield with 3:11 left after a Nebraska punt.

Mertz’s 27-yard pass to Isaac Guerendo produced a first down at the 7 and three plays later, Mertz rushed 1 yard for the winning score.

Nebraska’s Casey Thompson threw two touchdown passes to Trey Palmer, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the Cornhuskers (3-8, 2-6) from losing their fifth straight game.

Wisconsin outgained Nebraska 318 yards to 171.

Both teams punted on their first possession of the second half before the Badgers put together their best drive of the game.

They drove to a first and goal at the 5 and reached the 1 before a false-start penalty and an incomplete pass.

The 14-play, 74-yard march produced Nate Van Zeist’s 25-yard field goal that trimmed the Huskers lead to 7-3 with 4:50 left in the third quarter.

Nebraska answered on the ensuing possession by driving 79 yards in nine plays with Thompson and Palmer connecting on a 19-yard touchdown pass that increased the lead to 14-3 at the end of the period.

Mertz threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Skyler Bell but a two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Huskers with a 14-9 lead with 10:07 left.

The first five possessions of the game ended with punts and the game was scoreless at the end of the first quarter.

The biggest play of the first half came at the 10:13 mark of the second quarter when Malcolm Hartzog intercepted Mertz and returned the ball 23 yards to the Wisconsin 37.

Eight plays later Thompson threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Palmer for a 7-0 lead that Nebraska took into halftime after Van Zeist missed a 39-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the half.

The Badgers held the ball for nearly 18 minutes and outgained the Huskers 111 yards to 95 in the opening half.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) runs the ball as Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness (91) looks to make the tackle during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin out to push streak to nine over Nebraska

A pair of interim coaches will battle for one of college football’s newest rivalry trophies when Wisconsin visits Nebraska in a Big Ten Conference game on Saturday in Lincoln.

Established in 2014, the Freedom Trophy is up for grabs, and Nebraska (3-7, 2-5) will attempt to win it for the first time while snapping an eight-game losing streak to Wisconsin (5-5, 3-4).

The Cornhuskers clinched a sixth consecutive losing season, the longest stretch since finishing below .500 from 1956-61, with 34-3 loss at No. 3 Michigan last week. The ‘Huskers gained 146 yards, their fewest since netting 132 in a 2018 loss at Michigan.

Nebraska has dropped four games in a row after starting 2-1 under interim coach Mickey Joseph, scoring only 25 points in the past three games.

“I think overall the kids are playing hard under the circumstances they’re playing under,” Joseph said. “They’re not quitting.”

Wisconsin lost 24-10 at Iowa in its most recent game, dropping to 3-2 under interim coach Jim Leonhard. The loss kept the Badgers from joining what is currently a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten’s West Division at 4-3.

“We’ve got to find a way to punch our way out of it,” Leonhard said after Wisconsin managed just 227 yards and turned the ball over three times. “You have to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations. We’ve got to learn from adversity with a loss.”

Sophomore running back Braelon Allen, who has six 100-yard rushing games this season, gave Wisconsin a 1,000-yard rusher for the sixth year in a row (not counting the COVID-shortened 2020 season). He’ll face a Nebraska defense that allows an average of 191 yards per game on the ground.

Nebraska enters another game with uncertainty surrounding the starting quarterback spot.

Chubba Purdy started his second straight game against Michigan but was pulled for Logan Smothers, while Casey Thompson — who started the first eight games — entered this week listed first on the depth chart.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Casey Thompson (11) passes against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska QB Casey Thompson (arm) considered day-to-day

Nebraska starting quarterback Casey Thompson is day-to-day after suffering an injury to his throwing arm during last Saturday’s 26-9 home loss to Illinois.

Thompson didn’t practice Tuesday, interim coach Mickey Joseph told reporters, but there’s still a chance he could play this Saturday against visiting Minnesota.

In the meantime, backup quarterbacks Chubba Purdy and Logan Smothers split reps with the first-string offense evenly on Tuesday, according to Joseph.

Thompson left the Illinois game in the second quarter after throwing his second interception. At the time, Joseph said Thompson was hit in the elbow and he experienced numbness in his fingers.

Thompson finished the game 7 of 15 for 172 yards, one touchdown and two picks. Smothers played the rest of the quarter and Purdy took over for the second half.

A transfer from Texas, Thompson has thrown for 2,023 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season while completing 62.9 percent of his passes.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) evades Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive lineman Aaron Lewis (71) in the first quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota set to unleash rushing attack on Nebraska

The Big Ten Conference’s second-best rushing attack could be in for a big day on Saturday against the league’s worst run defense when Minnesota visits Nebraska in a West Division battle in Lincoln, Neb.

Minnesota (5-3, 2-3) is averaging 222.8 yards per game on the ground, going for 253 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-0 home win over Rutgers last week. The bulk of that production came from senior Mohamed Ibrahim, who carried 36 times for 159 yards and three scores.

Nebraska (3-5, 2-3) allows an average of 190.1 rushing yards per game, with four opponents gaining over 200 yards on the ground this season. The Cornhuskers allowed 188 rushing yards in a 26-9 home loss Saturday to then-No. 17 Illinois.

An arm injury to Nebraska starting quarterback Casey Thompson during the Illinois game has made planning for this week’s contest difficult, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said.

“We don’t know which one they’re going to actually play,” Fleck said of Thompson and backups Chubba Purdy and Logan Smothers, each of whom attempted at least one pass vs. Illinois.

Whoever plays at quarterback for Nebraska likely will target junior Trey Palmer often. The LSU transfer has 48 catches for 782 yards and five TDs but was limited to one reception for a single yard against Illinois.

“There were just some plays we couldn’t get it to him,” said Nebraska interim coach Mickey Joseph, who is 2-3 since taking over for Scott Frost in September.

Besides Ibrahim, Minnesota’s offense is guided by senior quarterback Tanner Morgan. He threw for 200-plus yards in three of the first five games before a head injury against Illinois caused him to miss a 45-17 loss at then-No. 16 Penn State. In his return last week, he was 14 of 21 for 122 yards vs. Rutgers.

Minnesota has won the past three meetings against Nebraska — the past two by one score. A victory Saturday would make the Golden Gophers bowl eligible for the fourth time in five seasons.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini running back Chase Brown (2) scores a touchdown during the first half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Red-hot No. 17 Illinois visits Nebraska in key Big Ten matchup

No. 17 Illinois will try to keep its unexpected spot atop the West Division standings when it visits Nebraska on Saturday for a Big Ten Conference game in Lincoln.

The Fighting Illini (6-1, 3-1) have won five straight, their longest streak since posting seven consecutive victories in 2010-11, which also was the last time they were ranked this high. They come off a bye holding a half-game lead in the West over Purdue, while Nebraska (3-4, 2-2) is one game behind the leader.

Illinois’ last game was a 26-14 home win Oct. 15 over Minnesota, in which it held its opponent to 180 yards. The Illini lead the country in scoring defense (8.9) and total defense (221.1) and rank second in rushing defense (77.9) and passing defense (143.3). Their 12 interceptions are tied for second-most in the country.

“They’ve got a really good scheme, they’re well coached and they stick to their guns,” Nebraska interim coach Mickey Joseph said. “They don’t do much, but what they do they do very well.”

Nebraska is 2-2 since Joseph was elevated to replace Scott Frost after three games, and during his tenure the Cornhuskers won their first road game in almost two years and picked up consecutive league wins for the first time since 2018.

“He’s definitely had a huge impact on kind of just what’s happened since that transition,” Illinois coach Bret Bielema said of Joseph. “I noticed the difference on offense, defense and really, even on special teams, the way they’re playing the game.”

The ‘Huskers also are coming off a bye, having lost 43-37 at Purdue before the off week. Receiver Trey Palmer, a transfer from LSU, had seven catches for a school-record 237 yards with two touchdowns.

For the season, Palmer has 781 receiving yards, only 223 behind the single-season school record with at least five games to go. But he’ll likely be matched up against Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon, who on Monday was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Thorpe Award given to college football’s top defensive back.

“Pretty big accomplishment for a guy that I think preseason probably didn’t have a lot of preseason hype,” Bielema said of Witherspoon, a junior who is second in FBS with 11 passes defended.

Quarterback play will be a big factor in this matchup. While Illinois is tops in the conference in defending the pass, Nebraska is last, meaning Illini senior Tommy DeVito could be in for another big game.

The Syracuse transfer was 25 of 32 for 252 yards and a TD against Minnesota and for the season is completing 70.4 percent of his passes. Nebraska junior Casey Thompson is at 64.1 percent, and his eight interceptions are tied for second-most in the conference, but he threw for 354 yards at Purdue and has topped the 300-yard mark three times in 2022.

The game also will feature the nation’s leading rusher in Illinois junior Chase Brown, who has run for 1,059 yards.

Illinois has won the last two meetings against Nebraska, including a 30-22 home victory to open the 2021 season. The Cornhuskers are 6-3 in the series since joining the Big Ten.

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2022; College Park, Maryland, USA;  Purdue Boilermakers head coach Jeff Brohm during the second half against the Maryland Terrapins  at SECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Streaking Purdue prepares for surging Nebraska

Purdue enters Saturday’s visit from Big Ten Conference opponent Nebraska on a three-game winning streak.

If securing those victories by a combined 14 points has left the Boilermakers exasperated, they aren’t showing it.

In fact, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm seems to view the distinction as a badge of honor as the Boilermakers (4-2, 2-1) aim to create more distance from their foes.

“It’s been by the hair of our teeth,” Brohm said. “We’ve had to scratch and claw to get (the wins). So that’s just how it’s going to be. We got to be willing to work for perfection and better execution, but you got to have the grit and toughness to be able to hang in to the very end.”

The Boilermakers’ latest show of mettle came last week at Maryland. While Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell had a strong game — 30-for-41 passing for 360 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception — the team had to exhale just the same.

A 31-29 victory was cemented only after Maryland was penalized for an ineligible man downfield on a would-be, game-tying, two-point conversion with 35 seconds remaining.

Nebraska (3-3, 2-1) presents the next test for Purdue on Saturday night in West Lafayette, Ind.

Despite a tumultuous start to the season that included the firing of coach Scott Frost, the Cornhuskers are tied with Purdue and No. 24 Illinois for the lead in the Big Ten West.

Nebraska has rebounded from a 1-3 start with successive conference victories against Indiana and Rutgers.

The Cornhuskers didn’t allow a point in the second half of their win over Rutgers last week, but they figure to face a tall order in stopping the connection between O’Connell and Payne Durham, who had seven receptions for 109 yards and a score for Purdue last week.

Nebraska’s Casey Thompson threw for a pair of second-half scores vs. Rutgers as the program continues to rally around interim coach Mickey Joseph.

“We want to build a culture of winning around here,” Thompson said, “but we have to focus on the process and winning on a daily basis.”

–Field Level Media