Published Saturday, November 16, 2013 AT 9:23 PM / Updated at 10:20 PM
Tom’s Takes: Michigan State 41, Nebraska 28
Tom Shatel Omaha World-Herald

Lot to like: Nebraska’s physicality on both sides of the ball. The offensive line more than held its own against this vaunted defense, and there had to be a sideline of red faces beneath the shiny green helmets when Imani Cross burst up the middle and outran the secondary on a 51-yard touchdown. Defensively, Nebraska’s front seven is feeling it, and it took all of the clutch throws Connor Cook could muster to put this one away.

Not so much: Nebraska’s idea of a punt return. Look, if you don’t want to go after a blocked punt, especially with some of the maximum protection schemes back there, fine. But then go down and set up a return. Bo Pelini seems content to do neither. It’s like they consider it a non-play. It’s not.

Grimminger Award: To Jeremiah Sirles, who not only suited up but started one week after being helped off the field at Michigan with a knee injury. Sirles tweaked the knee again and had to leave, but his presence showed a lot of character and leadership. Ol’ Harry would be proud, Jeremiah.

Bottom line: With two games left, the Huskers are playing for pride and nine wins, and we can debate what the latter is worth. But the program needs a strong finish. The young players who will be the nucleus of 2014 need it. There likely won’t be a Jan. 1 bowl this year, unless the Huskers fall to the Gator Bowl. Don’t count on that. The Fiesta Bowl/Buffalo Wild Wings folks haven’t had Big Red in the desert since 1999. You better believe they want ’em, against an old Big 12 friend.

About Tom Shatel

Tom Shatel is a columnist for The Omaha World-Herald. You can get in touch with Tom on Twitter (@tomshatelOWH), or send him an email at tom.shatel@owh.com.