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The Morning After: Michigan State

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A lot of folks went from one end to another last night with the Huskers loss to Sparty. Here's what they all said afterwards.

Gregory Shamus

Steve Sipple/LJS: Another wild ride leave Huskers woozy.

The Huskers should be in national-championship discussions at least every few years, and preferably without the wild roller-coaster rides in between. In Pelini's seventh season in charge, the ride should be smoother. Maybe this game actually was a good sign in that regard in that NU didn't unravel.

On the other hand, Nebraska's offensive line was whipped in an alarming manner much of the night.

Michigan State had the game under control. Then, it didn't. Bizarro world, as Bo would say.

Maybe you're like one of my friends who texted me late in the second half to say he turned off the game in favor of "Saturday Night Live" re-runs. The ride had worn him out.

The second half should give him hope. There was no quit in Pelini's team.

No question, under Pelini, Nebraska has at times raised hopes of its devoted fans, only to have them dashed. The Huskers tease you with a run of success, then comes the thud. The jolt. No need for rehash.

It's all a bit maddening, though, because there are obvious signs of progress. It becomes a complex discussion.

As for the latest setback, at least one thing is easy to understand: Nebraska's offensive line gets the lion's share of the blame.

Tom Shatel/OWH: What looked like a stinker suddenly became worthy of a sequel.

Can we get these two together again on Dec. 6, in that little indoor sandlot field in Indianapolis?

Yes, please.

Maybe that sounds a bit masochistic, after watching Michigan State clinically tear up Nebraska and race to a 27-3 lead. But the tough guy Spartans couldn’t cut out NU’s hearts.

And the only sound you heard at the end of a madcap finish was a collective Spartan Stadium breathing hard.

A dud of a Husker game, another in a big game, nearly turned into one of the all-time wins.

Two touchdowns and a field goal in the second half. Then a lightning bolt touchdown on a punt return. Suddenly NU had climbed to within 27-22 and was driving for the win in the final minute until Tommy Armstrong was intercepted deep in

MSU territory.

The Spartans survived, 27-22. This time.

Will there be a next time?

Let’s hope so. Even in defeat, Nebraska still looks like the best challenger to Michigan State’s throne. A rematch would be the best Big Ten championship game. Of course, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Iowa and even Minnesota may argue that. They’ll have their say, starting with NU’s visit to Northwestern in two weeks.

Sure, you can say the Spartans eased off the pedal, the Huskers woke up too late, and both might be right. But the Huskers gave Michigan State something to think about if the two do meet again

Joe Rexrode/Detroit Free Press: MSU Defense locks down Nebraska, leaks lead late in win.

If Saturday was discovery night for Michigan State, the Spartans found their defense.

And then they nearly discovered a new, incredible way to blow a huge lead. Down 27-3 in the fourth quarter, Nebraska scored three straight touchdowns, the last of which was a 62-yard De'Mornay Pierson punt return with 3:22 left. The Cornhuskers had it at the MSU 37 with less than a minute to play – finally succumbing when Trae Waynes picked off Tommy Armstrong Jr. with 30 seconds left to seal a 27-22 victory.

After the punt return, MSU senior safety Kurtis Drummond scooped up an onside kick, appearing to end the possibility of the most improbable and devastating loss of the Mark Dantonio era. But then MSU kicker Michael Geiger missed a 37-yard try, off the upright. Nebraska took over with 1:07 left at its own 20. Armstrong hit Alonzo Moore for a gain of 43 to the MSU 37.

It finally took Waynes to end a four-hour game that was, for three quarters, mostly a show of MSU's might. It still ends up a huge win for MSU (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten), which used the best defensive effort of the season to compensate for an offense that was uncharacteristically mistake-prone.

MSU controlled Heisman Trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah on the ground and harassed Armstrong Jr. in front of 75,923 at Spartan Stadium. Thousands of that crowd were gone by the time the Cornhuskers made their late rally.

Blake Baumgardner/The Only Colors: Instant Reaction; Nebraska vs. Michigan State

Cook's interception on the second play of the game, a Langford fumble and a missed field goal from Michael Geiger that could have put the Spartans up 30-22 late, making Trae Waynes' interception of Cornhuskers' quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. in the waning seconds necessary for the Spartans to claim victory, made the game a lot closer than it should have been.

Cook didn't have his best night in going 11-of-29 passing for 234 yards and will need to improve on his accuracy, a trait that I don't think he necessarily has taken the next step when compared to his 2013 season. It was the biggest thing he had to work on in the offseason and it still is as the 2014 season heads into the second week of October.

I suppose Bo Pelini's charges deserve credit for piecing together a 19-point fourth quarter to turn a 27-3 deficit into a five-point deficit while having the ball and having an opportunity to finish off the improbable comeback before Waynes' heroics.

But Mark Dantonio has ammo for his charges as it prepares for very winnable games the next three weeks against Purdue, Indiana and Michigan before Urban Meyer and Ohio State come calling to Spartan Stadium in five weeks.

And that might turn out to be a very good thing, even if it doesn't seem like it now.