Raise your hand if the defense should get their Blackshirts. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
So I had a work thing yesterday and managed to keep total Husker blackout until I got home in the evening. I was pretty impressed I was able to resist the urge to check the score at all. At least I was rewarded with an impressive Husker win.
Talks of talk about Burkhead, and the return of the Blackshirts. Let's break it down.
Nebraska's defense, criticized after it allowed 486 yards in a 48-17 loss at Wisconsin on Oct. 1 and leaky in the first half of a 34-27 win over Ohio State two weeks ago, held the Spartans to 187 yards in its best performance of the year.
Just when you doubt the Pelini Bros, they draw you back in with a great defensive performance. Can the defense continue this way?
Nebraska to #9 in the AP
Nebraska's offensive effort might not look all that impressive at first, until you realize that the Spartans rank in the top ten in all the major defensive categories. Rex Burkhead cemented his place in Nebraska football lore with a gritty, gutty 35 carry performance. The 3.7 yard average won't impress people...but the heart he showed in grinding out extra yard after extra yard all day was memorable.
Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead: Burkhead showed against Michigan State why he's one of the most valuable players in the Big Ten. Nebraska fed No. 22 early and often, and Burkhead responded with 130 rush yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries in the 24-3 victory. He also had a 27-yard touchdown reception.
Nebraska is the only team that controls its own destiny, but the Cornhuskers still have to go to Ann Arbor and State College, while Michigan would lose a tiebreaker against Michigan State, which has the easiest schedule the rest of the way.
No one said it was going to be easy.
Five punts. Four sacks. Two fourth-down stops. One tone-setting interception. One rattled quarterback in Kirk Cousins. One shut-down MSU wide receiver in B.J. Cunningham — zero catches — who was swallowed whole by cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
Keshawn Martin, who led the Spartans with five catches for 58 yards, said it didn't come without great difficulty. "They definitely had our routes figured out. They got good pressure on Kirk, and downfield, they were everywhere. They were right there with us."
In the locker room after a 24-3 win over Michigan State, Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini told his players that he had a present for them. Then he held up a black shirt.
Which is a long way of saying that there is no frontrunner in this conference — and if there is, Nebraska is suddenly as good a candidate for the title as any. The Cornhuskers continue to struggle in the passing game, but compared to Michigan State's offense, Iowa's defense and Michigan's string of futility against ranked opponents (ten consecutive losses and counting), they're in good company. And they control their destiny down the stretch.
HINDSIGHT IT'S 20/20
All signs point to a miserable game from Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who will be pressured to gain yards through the air and who isn't exactly lighting things up in that domain (7 TDs to 6 interceptions, 7.79 yards per attempt). Amazingly, Nebraska is favored by four points, which is sort of like Las Vegas mailing you free money. Wink wink.
Remember gambling is wrong... wink wink
What Will Happen: The Nebraska home field advantage might help a little bit, but Michigan State’s lines are playing way too well. The Huskers don’t have a pass rush, and it’ll turn out to be a killer for a secondary that’ll get picked clean by Cousins. On the other side, the Nebraska offensive line isn’t going to have the success it’ll need to make this a game. Michigan State is the real deal, and it’ll prove by taking a stranglehold on the Legends.
So this was posted before the game. So clearly after the game they would change their opinion?
Nebraska fans should rightfully be happy after seeing their team iron out a laundry list of persistent problems. Yet, in the same breath, one shouldn't view this conquest of Sparty as a particularly huge achievement. Michigan State has looked very listless away from home; what you saw on Saturday was a face-plant that should hardly shock the senses.
Or not. "I was not wrong, just what happened didn't follow my logic, therefore it was the teams, and not my fault!"