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The Morning After: Michigan State

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Yes, you woke up and Nebraska really won. Here's what everyone is saying this morning about the upset.

David McGee

Tom Shatel, Omaha World-Herald: After a long, angry week, Huskers have reason to cut loose

This was the most fun ever. Remember fun? How long had it been? Don’t ask. Just go with it. Dance. Sing. Hug.

This unthinkable 39-38 Nebraska victory, over No. 6 Michigan State, had long been over. Michigan State had left the field. But the Nebraska team was still there, dancing on top of benches and equipment trucks, moving to the loud beat in Memorial 
Stadium, swaying with the crowd to a tune called "Let me clear my throat."

Oh yeah, the crowd was dancing, too. At least those who hadn’t left when Nebraska was down 12 and it looked like methodical Michigan State would squeeze the air out of the best Husker effort of the season.

If you left, you missed it. But something tells me nobody who bolted early will ever admit it. There were 90,000 here last night. Some day, 150,000 Nebraskans will say they were there.

Steve Sipple, Lincoln Journal-Star: After ample heartache, NU gets cathartic moment

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised the Big Red masses — all but a few — stood firm and loud behind their boys. Yeah, the fans seem much more hungry than beaten down by losing. The night showed us once again Nebraska is a special place and the football program will be forever special, if cared for correctly.

Husker fans crave good, sound football. They saw plenty of it on this night.

Riley told his players they wouldn't need to be superhuman to defeat Michigan State, but that they would need "a really good human effort." Nobody can question Nebraska's effort.

"They never quit," Riley said. "That's it."

The win speaks volumes about the team's leadership and character, particularly considering the rugged nature of this season.

Yes, this looked like football.

Graham Couch, Lansing State Journal: MSU will regret how they lost to Nebraska

Head coach Mark Dantonio and offensive coordinators Dave Warner and Jim Bollman chose to give a shaky defense fewer seconds to defend rather than put the ball in the hands of a quarterback who’s delivered 31 victories at MSU.

It didn’t make sense. Not the metrics of it. Nor the lack of courage.

The program of "Chase it" and "Reach higher" played not to lose and lost so much.

Nebraska had 55 seconds to drive the the field and needed just 38 of them. Forget the controversy surrounding the final touchdown call. MSU deserved this. A 39-38 loss.

Hondo Carpenter, Spartan Nation: I agree with Dantonio, "I don't think the officiating lost us the game", Critical Coaching Error Did.

So think about this. Mark Dantonio trusted his battered defensive backfield that hadn’t stopped the Huskers all night (320 yards passing) over his future first round NFL QB who is the greatest QB in Spartan history.  He also trusted his Defense that got got zero sacks all night up to that point over that same decorated MSU QB.

The same coach famous for rolling the dice with big plays at critical times rolled the dice again by betting on a downtrodden defensive backfield over his own "en fuego" passing attack.

I got nothing.

It isn’t logical, it doesn’t make sense, but I said after the 24-21 over Purdue that, "Spartan conservative play calling could come back to cost this team a game they should win, if it doesn’t change." Sadly tonight it did.

Brandon Vogel, Hail Varsity: Huskers can forget tomorrow's concern for a day

For one, it gave everyone affiliated with this program – players, coaches, administrators and fans – a reason to be happy, to not worry about the talent, the scheme or the faith of the powers-that-be that it will all work out. We’ll all get back to tomorrow’s concerns tomorrow. It wouldn’t be Nebraska football without fretting about the future, but for one night it can go away.

"It’s momentum. That’s what this thing is all about, and belief," defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. "Belief in each other. The confidence that they have in each other, on both sides of the ball."

But the second thing Saturday’s win might do actually could address some of tomorrow’s concerns. If the Huskers can build off this win, if they can see how small the difference is between the great win and the heartbreaking loss, if they can look a lot like Michigan State did most of the night and most of the past two-and-half seasons because it has now been not just modeled for them but lived, that might be worth a great deal.

Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press: Don't blame refs for MSU collapse at Nebraska

But we should also remember this: Michigan State couldn’t stop Nebraska. Couldn’t sack Tommy Armstrong. Couldn’t cover the Cornhuskers’ receivers.

Couldn’t summon the courage to unleash the best passing quarterback in college football at the moment when they had the chance to ice the game.

Want to hear what Nebraska’s coach, Mike Riley, said about Connor Cook and the Spartans’ passing game?

"I tell you, that second half, that quarterback and what they were doing … it was hard stuff," he said. "That part of their game is really, really different in a good way for them."

In other words, you don’t often see quarterbacks in college zip throws into impossibly tight spaces with the season on the line. But that’s what Cook did, and that’s what he’s done the past several weeks.

He’s the best player on the team. He was the best player on the field at Memorial Stadium. So what did MSU coach Mark Dantonio do when Cook had three plays to get one first down to seal the game?

He ordered a run on first down. Then another run on second down. Then a reverse with tight end Jamal Lyles on third down.

"We ran Jamal on that, we didn’t think they’d be expecting it," Dantonio said. "If we threw the ball, it would’ve stopped the clock if it was imcomplete."

Dirk Chatelain, Omaha World-Herald: Brandon Reilly ready when his moment arrived

2015 had taught Brandon Reilly to wait for the zeros.

He stood on the bench and watched Michigan State return a squib kick to the 42-yard line. He let out a deep breath. He put his hands on his head. Then Michigan State completed a pass. No!

De’Mornay Pierson-El, waving a towel, inadvertently whipped Reilly in the face. No. 87 didn’t say a word. One more play. Connor Cook felt the heat and threw incomplete. Zeroes.

The crowd roared. Reilly pumped his fists. He took off sprinting toward the students in the south end zone.

"Unreal," he told me moments later. "I feel bad for the people who left early."

Nebraska turned the tables on fate Saturday night and served notice nationally that the program ain’t dead yet. The hero, quite fittingly, was a junior walk-on receiver who didn’t have a Division I scholarship offer coming out of Lincoln Southwest.