World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust takes a look at Nebraska’s effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers’ 28-24 win over Michigan State.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
NU STAR: Sure, he threw three interceptions and nearly lost a fumble, but it’s hard to look past quarterback Taylor Martinez running for 205 yards and directing the game-winning drive that he capped with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Turner with six seconds left. Martinez also became the Huskers’ all-time leader in total offense along the way.
HIGHLIGHT: Nebraska faced fourth-and-10 from its 42-yard line when Martinez connected with tight end Kyler Reed on a 38-yard pass play. It put the Huskers in field-goal range at the Michigan State 20 with 31 seconds to go.
BUSTED PLAY: Martinez was looking for Ben Cotton when Darqueze Dennard jumped the route, picked off the pass and appeared to return the interception 96 yards for a touchdown that would have put the Spartans ahead 31-14. Lucky for NU, Michigan State was flagged for a personal foul that negated nearly all of the return.
OUR TAKE: Nebraska put up 473 total yards on one of the Big Ten’s best defenses, including 313 rushing against an MSU unit that was allowing just 91.2 per game (ranking No. 7 nationally). Martinez’s work on the ground took some of the pressure off I-back Ameer Abdullah, and the two-minute drill wasn’t perfect at the end but got the job done in near-amazing fashion. The concern again has to be the turnovers and some of the penalties.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
NU STAR: Senior defensive end Eric Martin regularly hassled Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell, although Nebraska was not credited with a sack. Martin also played with some relentless energy as he finished with eight tackles and two quarterback hurries.
HIGHLIGHT: Michigan State got 6-foot-5, 285-pound tight end Dion Sims alone against Justin Blatchford on a third-down play late after the Huskers had just pulled within 24-21. Blatchford, however, was able to break up the pass near the NU sideline to force a Spartan punt.
BUSTED PLAY: Maxwell snuck a 46-yard touchdown pass to Tony Lippett in the second quarter despite Nebraska having Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Josh Mitchell in the vicinity to make a play. Neither did as Michigan State pulled ahead 14-7.
OUR TAKE: Nebraska finally stood up when it mattered most, allowing just 30 total yards and one first down on Michigan State’s final three possessions. One more first down and the Spartans would have been able to run out the clock. The first three quarters, however, were problematic. The Huskers struggled with some run fits, leaving room for Le’Veon Bell to run for 188 yards. And the defense failed to get off the field on some third downs.