Well, the defense came to play...but the offense didn't, for the most part. That allowed Michigan State to break out to a 27-3 lead that would typically be insurmountable.
Insurmountable for most football teams. Maybe not a Bo Pelini program which has developed a knack for making heroic comebacks. And they gave it their darndest, but couldn't close the deal. But you could see the look of panic in Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio's eyes in the fourth quarter as he watched the Big Red rise up and do the improbable.
Unfortunately for some, we grade on the full game, not the fourth quarter. As always, your comments and feedback are welcome. Tell us what you saw!
QB: In big games, players have to step up, and unfortunately for Nebraska, we saw more of the same from Tommy Armstrong: a quarterback who locks onto his first receiver and doesn't go through his progressions, and a quarterback who reverts back to bad fundamentals when under pressure. Which was almost the entire evening against Michigan State. The pressure wasn't Armstrong's fault, but the reaction was. Grade: D
I-Back: Ameer Abdullah just couldn't fight his way into the open field against the Michigan State defense. He averaged just 1.9 yards a carry, and those were the toughest 1.9 yards of his career. I would have loved to see Abdullah used more in the passing game, but he was needed to bail out the offensive line on pass protection --- and then there was that little problem of Armstrong's erratic arm. On that final drive, I can only wonder what could have been if Armstrong could have gotten Abdullah the ball in the final minute: open field with nobody around him for 20 yards. Could he have pulled off another McNeese Moment? Grade: C-
WR: Kenny Bell was one Husker on offense who was clicking early in the game...but that all came to a crashing end when he reinjured his groin in the second quarter. Jordan Westerkamp had a fine game, and Alonzo Moore almost became a legend in this state, if only he could have held onto that touchdown pass in the closing minute. Some want to point out the drops and the missed catches, but the bigger issue was that the ball wasn't thrown well to begin with. Grade: B-
OL: You saw it. I saw it. The nation saw it. Jake Cotton's imitation of a California redwood made everybody's blooper reel. The thing was...that was Nebraska's offensive line all night long. They got schooled by Michigan State, and for the most part, it was just the Spartan defensive line. Not a lot of blitzing; it was four guys humiliating five guys. Then to make it worse, there were the penalties. And the premature snaps of the ball. Should this be a "0"? Not in my eyes, because Michigan State's defensive line made plays and earned them. So we'll just give the Husker line a big fat ugly F.
DL: On the second play of the game, Nebraska makes their case for the upset on defense: Vincent Valentine crashes the line and deflects a Connor Cook pass into the hands of Randy Gregory. Of course, the offense didn't do a damned thing with the gift, but the defense should get credit for making the play. And did you see the play Gregory made on Jeremy Langford to get him out of bounds to save time AND force the field goal? Last year, he was just a pass rusher, but now, he's evolving into an every down run stopper AND quarterback eater. Grade: A-
LB: First the bad: Josh Banderas looks lost out there at times. With a bye week, hopefully David Santos is ready to go for Northwestern, because if you need three linebackers, the three you want out there are Zaire Anderson, Trevor Roach, and Santos. Roach was huge out there with 18 tackles - 4 for a loss. Anderson was big as well. Grade: B+
Secondary: My biggest fear going into this week's game was making sure Tony Lippett was covered all game long. But when Daniel Davie left the game, Jonathan Rose wasn't up to the challenge. True freshman Joshua Kalu was, though. He's going to be a good one. But the damage was done at that point. For much of the rest of the game, Cook's completions were the result of precision passes thrown into decent, if not good coverage. Just remember that Cook only completed 39% of his passes on the night because more often than not, his receivers weren't all that open. Grade: B+
Special Teams: Tim Beck had better start finding a way to get De'Mornay Pierson-El involved in the passing game because teams are simply not going to punt to him anymore - especially with the game on the line. And Pierson-El is simply too much of a weapon to stand out there and watch the ball sail out of bounds. (Or to catch screen passes for a five yard loss.) Grade: A
Overall: D+ A furious comeback lessens the sting of a bad loss to some extent...but it's still a bad loss.
Elsewhere in College Football
Upsets: A+ Sportswriters and talking heads keep trying to set the college football playoff each week, only to have the reality of college football bite them in the rear. It started with Arizona knocking off Oregon on Friday morning and ended with UCLA missing two chances at a game winning field goal early Sunday morning. Here's a better idea: let's enjoy the ride and worry about the playoff around mid to late November.
Michigan: F Brady Hoke is now dead-man-walking. If he shows up at a press conference in a beige polo shirt, you know he's gone full-Callahan.
Northwestern: A Talk about turning a 180... a few weeks ago, Northwestern looked dead to the world. Now they lead the Big Ten west.
Thursday Night Football: Zero. It's simply overdone. The NFL tried to justify CBS's gazillion dollar investment by setting up division rivalries for Thursday night games, and was rewarded with boring blowout after boring blowout. Then last weekend, we got a great college game between Oregon and Arizona ... that started at 9:30 pm central time. If you had a regular job, you couldn't afford to stay up for the finish of this game - unless you live west of the Rockies.
Huge tactical error watching that game last night -- and not on DVR.— Matt Hayes (@Matt_HayesSN) October 3, 2014
And don't get me started on what these games mean for the ticket holders who buy tickets and have to burn vacation time to use them when the game gets switched to a workday. Enough already.