Second-string quarterback Kain Colter ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, all in the second half, as Northwestern upset the ninth-ranked Cornhuskers 28-25.
The Wildcats amassed 468 yards and wore down the Huskers' defense on a 13-play, 66-yard drive late in the game that secured the win.
It was only a week ago that defensive coordinator Carl Pelini waved a Blackshirt over his head in the locker room after a 24-3 win over Michigan State. Two days later he presented the black practice jerseys to the defensive starters and key reserves in a time-honored tradition at Nebraska that dates to the 1960s.
"We take a lot of pride in getting those Blackshirts, and to do what we did today, it's embarrassing," safety Austin Cassidy said. "You're not going to win a lot of games giving up 30 points, or however many points we gave up, and 500 yards of offense. ... I think we gave up 25 first downs, which is just embarrassing, to be honest."
The loss to the 17-point underdog Wildcats (4-5, 2-4) dropped Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) into a second-place tie with Iowa and Michigan in the Big Ten's Legends Division. Michigan State moved into sole possession of first place with its win over Minnesota.
"We got beat. It's that plain and simple," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "They outplayed us, they outcoached us. What are you going to say? They won the football game. They deserve it. I give Northwestern a lot of credit. We didn't respond."
The win was Northwestern's first over a top-10 team since a 17-10 road victory over then-No. 8 Iowa on Nov. 7, 2009.
"A great program win for us," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "To come on the road and put together our most complete game of the year. ... Not perfect. Not a work of art. There are some things we can correct."
Northwestern starting quarterback Dan Persa injured his left shoulder in the second quarter when he was slammed to the ground by defensive end Eric Martin. Persa tried to play a couple more series, but he was on the sideline with his left arm in a sling after halftime.
Colter, who typically shares playing time with Persa at quarterback, took all but four snaps in the second half. He ran for 58 yards and completed four of six passes for 115 yards. Third-string quarterback Trevor Siemian came in and went 3 of 4 for 67 yards.
After the Huskers had pulled to 21-18, Colter scored from the 1 with 1:34 left to finish a drive that chewed more than 7 minutes off the clock.
"They just came out and they just played hard," Martin said. "They had a good game plan and they came out and played their game plan to the fullest and they trusted their coaches. We didn't execute our plays well. The result wasn't as good as it should have been."
Nebraska, missing Jared Crick and two other defensive linemen because of injury, couldn't stop the running of Colter, Jacob Schmidt and Treyvon Green on Northwestern's last touchdown drive.
"We're thin up front," Bo Pelini said. "They were just getting the push. It looked like we'd have them stopped for no gain and it'd leak for 3 or 4 yards."
Colter converted a fourth-and-1 with a 4-yard run around right end to the Nebraska 14, and five plays later the Wildcats were in the end zone.
Taylor Martinez, who passed for 289 yards and two scores, hurriedly moved Nebraska down the field. He hit Kenny Bell for a 14-yard touchdown with 18 seconds to play, but Charles Brown recovered the onside kick and Northwestern ran out the clock.
Nebraska finished with a season-low 122 yards on 35 carries, the third time this season it did not rush for at least 200 yards.
The Wildcats bottled up running back Rex Burkhead and forced two costly turnovers in the first half.
Burkhead, who had 100-yard outings in five of his last six games, was limited to 69 yards on 22 carries.
Burkhead fumbled for the first time this season after the Huskers had driven to the Northwestern 5. Jack DiNardo reached in and stripped the ball, and Tyler Scott recovered.
Northwestern went nowhere after the turnover and punted into the wind, setting up Nebraska just inside the 50. But Quincy Enunwa got hit hard by Jeravin Matthews after catching a 25-yard pass, and Ibraheim Campbell recovered for the Wildcats.
"When the game was up for grabs in the fourth quarter, when it could have gone either way, they just outplayed us," Cassidy said. "We couldn't get a stop when we needed to. They outplayed us. They wanted it more than we did."