LINCOLN, Neb. | Northwestern's fifth straight loss stung a lot more than the previous four.
The Wildcats were within one play of beating Nebraska on Saturday. Then Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp caught Ron Kellogg III's tipped, 49-yard desperation heave to the end zone with no time left, sending the Wildcats to a 27-24 loss.
"We just needed to find a way to make one more play," coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
The Cornhuskers looked like they were finished after Northwestern took a three-point lead with 1:20 left. They started their final drive at their 17 with no timeouts.
Ameer Abdullah caught a short pass and stretched to convert a fourth-and-15. Then, with four seconds on the clock, Kellogg dropped back for a final play. The strong-armed Kellogg let fly a ball that was deflected into Westerkamp's hands in the end zone. Westerkamp held on, bringing the entire Nebraska bench running onto the field in celebration. The play was confirmed on video review.
Jeff Budzien had kicked a 21-yard, tie-breaking field goal with 1:20 left after defensive lineman Tyler Scott's interception set up Northwestern inside the Nebraska 10.
"You can't ever think the game is over," Scott said. "You have to go out there and execute. We've been in these battles all the time and we know they can go either way. I didn't think it was over, but I just thought it gave us a good chance to win.
"Our offense put up three points and left it out there for the defense to go out and finish the game. We came up unsuccessful, but everybody gave it their all."
The Wildcats' injury problems worsened. Already without running backs Venric Mark and Mike Trumpy, they lost Stephen Buckley to a knee injury in the first quarter.
Treyvon Green ran for 149 yards and a career-high three touchdowns for the Wildcats but was hurt in the second half, though he returned. Cornerback Nick VanHoose also went out with an injury in the first half.
"Give credit to Nebraska, great win by them, but we have to get healthy," Fitzgerald said. "That is the No. 1 thing right now."
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has said that if the Huskers ever needed to drive the field in the final 2 minutes, Kellogg would be the guy he called on.
Kellogg, a walk-on who wasn't put on scholarship until August, came through in a big way for a Nebraska team whose season was teetering after last week's loss at Minnesota. The Huskers avoided back-to-back conference losses for the first time since 2009.
The Huskers (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) continue to control their own destiny in the Big Ten Legends Division. The Wildcats (4-5, 0-5) get this week off before playing Michigan at home.
Abdullah ran 24 times for 127 yards, but his biggest play came when the Huskers were trying to keep their last drive alive. Kellogg was in trouble on fourth-and-15 when he dumped the ball to Abdullah, who fought his way to the first-down marker and even got an extra yard.
Armstrong was 15 of 29 for 173 yards and a touchdown, but he threw three interceptions.
Kellogg was 7 of 13 for 104 yards, with one interception and the winning touchdown.
Nebraska defensive end Avery Moss tied it 21-all in the middle of the third quarter, picking off Trevor Siemian and running 25 yards for a touchdown.