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Report Card: Huskers 9, Michigan State Spartans 6

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The high flying Husker offense was grounded by the weather, but the defense gutted out a B1G win in the snow and cold.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a year makes.

Not if you are looking at the Huskers record; Nebraska finds themselves with a 4-7 record once again. This is one of those seasons where the record doesn’t really indicate where the program is. Aside from one game (Michigan), the Huskers have had a chance to win each week. At the start of the season, Nebraska seemed to find ways to lose.

This week, Nebraska found a way to win on a snowy and windy day. As Brian Towle, our late recruiting editor, would likely have said: “They won the damn game.”

Scott Frost pretty much had to junk his game plan on a day where any pass longer than 15 yards ended up being blown off target. But they ran the ball well enough to stay on the game, then tie it up and eventually take the lead.

Michigan State’s offense has been bad in recent weeks, and that gave the Blackshirts a chance to get well in this one. Perfect game? Hardly. Receivers were open, and Connor Heyward racked up way too many yards. But in the fourth quarter, the defense rose up and made plays to seize control and then seize the game. The play of the day?

Antonio Reed’s crushing blitz that forced Spartans quarterback Rocky Lombardi to cough up the ball, setting up Nebraska’s game tying field goal. Truth be told, I thought that should have led to a game tying touchdown as replay clearly showed Stanley Morgan was pulled down on that third-and-three pass.

If Nebraska hadn’t won, fans would be bitter about all of the non-calls; it seemed that the only thing these referees were going to call was if the Spartans brandished their numchucks on the field.

Instead, we’re celebrating Nebraska’s fourth win in their last five games. This 4-7 feels a helluva lot better than last year’s.

So on with the report card; as always, your comments are welcome.

QB: It was a really tough day to play quarterback, but Adrian Martinez had his worst day as a Nebraska quarterback. Aside from a 17 yard run in the first quarter, he was mostly ineffective running the ball, and he struggled to complete any passes down the field. Yes, the win affected the trajectory of balls, but MSU’s Lombardi was more able to throw catchable balls on this day. Grade: C-

I-Back: The Spartans knew Nebraska wasn’t going to be able to throw the ball deep, and that allowed their defense to close in on the run even more in this game. In that light, Devine Ozigbo’s warrior performance was even more noteworthy in light of Michigan State’s top-ranked rush defense. He sealed the victory with his first down run in the fourth quarter when the Spartans had to sell out to get the ball back. Grade: B+

Wide Receivers: No J.D. Spielman hurt, but Kade Warner gave it a good effort. But when Nebraska needed to make some plays, there was Stanley Morgan doing it again and again. Next week, Morgan needs 77 yards to become Nebraska’s first 1,000 yard receiver. Gotta find a way to do that. Grade: C+

Offensive Line: Only one sack allowed, and more importantly, Nebraska was able to exceed the Spartans defensive rushing average. That’s a solid performance for a B+.

Defensive Line: Michigan State was able to rush for their second highest total (143 yards) in conference play this season. This remains a development item, and this year, the work begins six weeks earlier...and they are better prepared for this. Grade: C-

Linebackers: My thoughts were similar to the defensive line. While Mohammed Barry and Dedrick Young led the team in tackles, it seemed many were downfield. Great to see Tyrin Ferguson get back in the mix, though. Grade: C-

Secondary: This is where the game was won, starting with Antonio Reed. One week after suffering a shoulder injury, Reed was a missile with three tackles for loss. None more important than the sack-and-strip that led to the game-tying field goal.

Or the two pass breakups. Will he get Big Ten defensive player of the week honors on Monday? Let’s not forget Tre Neal, who had three pass breakups on the day. Grade: A

Special Teams: Too often this season, special teams have ranged from bad to a disaster. So this week, let’s give credit where credit is due. Brett Pickering nailed all three field goals, while Isaac Armstrong showed a good leg against the wind. It’s entirely appropriate for this to happen on the day where the schools and fans honored Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz, the Spartan and NU punters killed in a tragic car accident two years ago. Grade: A

Overall: B It wasn’t a picture perfect game, but it was exactly the type of B1G win teams have to be able to win in this conference. Day by day, this team gets better and better.

Poll

How would you grade the Huskers 9-6 win over Michigan State?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    A - Amazing victory in the snow and cold!
    (229 votes)
  • 60%
    B - Beat the Spartans and the weather.
    (490 votes)
  • 8%
    C - CCccccccoooolld win.
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    D - Don’t think Sparty is even remotely good.
    (25 votes)
814 votes total Vote Now

Elsewhere in College Football

Illinois: 0 I’m not sure the Illini even tried.

The Citadel: A+ Yeah, it was one half. But it was a glorious half.

Not that they went in with high expectations.