For only the third time in their previous 52 seasons, the Huskers have opened 1-2. Northern Illinois improved to 2-1 with its only setback coming in a 23-20 loss to Boston College in its season opener.
At halftime - as Nebraska left the field trailing thanks to two pick-sixes of quarterback Tanner Lee - there was a smattering of boos from the red sea. In the last two games, he has attempted 88 passes and suffered seven interceptions - one nearly every 12 attempts.
Nebraska's defense kept the NIU offense scoreless until the fourth quarter.
Disaster struck again for Nebraska when defensive end Drequan Brown hit Lee as he threw and Johnson picked off the diminished pass, returning it 25 yards for a score to make it 14-0 late in the first quarter.
Nebraska trailed 14-0 after one quarter, despite outgaining NIU, 115-32 in the period, while running 22 plays compared to just 10 for the Huskies. The Huskies were far from flawless, however, committing 15 penalties for 194 yards, while Hagan had field-goal attempts from 39 and 30 yards blocked. The Cornhuskers attempt to put together a more complete game and pick up some steam heading into Big Ten play Saturday when they host Northern Illinois. In fact, Nebraska outyarded NIU, 201-88, in the half and ran 43 plays compared to just 25 for the Huskies. NIU went 75 yards in six plays, starting with a 47-yard pass from Daniel Santacaterina to Christian Blake and ending with a two-yard Jordan Huff TD.
Overall, the Huskies held Nebraska to 384 total yards and an average of 4.63 yards per play.
The Huskers got the ball with a little more than three minutes left in the game, but Lee threw his third interception of the day on fourth-and-14.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers welcomed the likes of Fresno State, Wyoming, South Alabama, FAU and McNeese State to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln over the past three seasons and beat them all.
A penalty against Nebraska gave the Huskies a first down and from there, NIU went into victory formation to secure the win. Both defenses did a good job at the line of scrimmage, as Nebraska managed just 85 rushing yards on 36 carries, while the Huskies produced 85 yards on 31 totes. Junior receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. ranks inside the top five among Big Ten players in catches (12), receiving yards (205) and receiving touchdowns (three). The veteran now has more interceptions than touchdowns between the four he threw in Autzen Stadium against OR and the three he tossed this week against Northern Illinois.
Bobby Jones led the Huskies defense with 14 tackles, while Kyle Pugh and Mykel Williams added double-digit tackles.