ERIC OLSON,AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — After rallying late to win at Northwestern, Nebraska will play for a share of the Big Ten Legends Division lead when Michigan visits Lincoln this Saturday night.
The Cornhuskers (5-2, 2-1) defeated the Wildcats 29-28 Saturday thanks to Taylor Martinez’s big fourth quarter and despite three turnovers and eight penalties.
So it’s one down and five to go for the Huskers to meet coach Bo Pelini’s challenge — issued after a 25-point loss at Ohio State two weeks ago — to win their final six regular-season games.
“I firmly believe we can win ’em all,” he said after Saturday’s game in Evanston, Ill. “We can play with anybody we play with. We can’t do the things we did today. We pulled this one out. A lot of the issues we had were self-induced. You’re not always going to be able to come back and make that kind of comeback.”
Michigan (5-2, 3-0) will head to Nebraska on a three-game win streak after a 12-10 victory over Michigan State.
The game figures to be an entertaining matchup between two of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks in Martinez and Denard Robinson.
Last year the Wolverines capitalized on three Nebraska turnovers to win 45-17 in Ann Arbor.
Turnovers have been a problem for the Huskers the past two seasons, and they probably would have cost Nebraska the game against Northwestern if the defense hadn’t held strong.
Northwestern converted only one of Nebraska’s fumbles into points and went three-and-out on 10 possessions. The Wildcats had 301 total yards, but 106 of them came on two scoring plays.
Still, the Huskers were forced to erase a 12-point deficit and match their biggest fourth-quarter comeback in school history.
The Huskers, who rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin, were down 28-16 with 8 minutes left. Martinez completed 9 of 10 passes while leading touchdown drives of 80 and 76 yards for the lead. He finished 27 of 39 for 342 yards.
“It’s one of my top (games), I’d say,” Martinez said.
Martinez pulled the Huskers within 28-23 when he threw a perfectly placed ball into the corner of the end zone, where Taariq Allen won the jump ball for his second career catch and first for a TD.
“Great throw, great catch,” Pelini said. “To get his feet in… It was contested. Heck of a play by the young man.”
Nebraska’s defense forced yet another three-and-out to set up the winning drive.
“Everyone knew we were going to score a touchdown,” Martinez said. “You could feel it throughout the offense. We knew if we got the chance we’d score again.”
Martinez hit Quincy Enunwa with a couple big passes before throwing 7 yards to Ben Cotton off play-action for the go-ahead TD with 2:08 left.
Northwestern had a chance to regain the lead with just over a minute left, but Jeff Budzien’s 53-yarder was off the mark.
Pelini, who had been seen screaming at players on the sideline and into his headset throughout the game, raised his arms and broke into a big smile as officials signaled Budzien’s attempt sailed wide right.
“I thought it was a good team win,” he said. “I was frustrated with getting ourselves in that situation in the first place. We’ve got to use this momentum and we’ve got to keep working. It’s the second half of the year, and we’re starting a new season. We got one here on the road and we have to keep going.”
Martinez pushed his career passing total to 5,335 yards, making him the fourth player in school history to go over 5,000 yards passing.
The junior also is the 18th player in Bowl Subdivision history with 5,000 career passing yards and 2,000 career rushing yards, and he’s just the seventh to reach the milestone before his senior season.
“Taylor overall played a pretty outstanding football game,” Pelini said. “He was poised the whole time. He kept his poise better than his head coach did.”
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