Published Saturday, November 16, 2013 AT 9:21 PM / Updated at 10:09 PM
Tracking the Husker offense, defense
Rich Kaipust Omaha World-Herald

World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust breaks down the Huskers’ play on both sides of the ball during NU’s 41-28 loss to Michigan State.

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The game plan: Nebraska knew it wanted to run right into the teeth of the Michigan State defense and did it with I-back Ameer Abdullah in the first half (13 carries, 87 yards). It also tried to hit the Spartans with some quick throws, with mixed success.

The adjustments: Four first-half turnovers and a 20-7 halftime deficit changed the urgency of what Nebraska was doing. With their hand forced, the Huskers threw 25 passes in the second half after attempting just seven in the first.

NU star: Abdullah ran for more yards than Michigan State has surrendered all season, finishing with 123 on 22 attempts. The 29-yard run by the junior in the second quarter was the second longest against the Spartans in 10 games (later topped by Imani Cross’ 51-yard run).

Stat of the game: Five turnovers (four by the offense). That’s all that needs to be said.

Final word: Nebraska managed to put up 182 rushing yards against the nation’s top run defense, somehow maintaining a steady push up front despite playing with a patchwork offensive line. That and the 392 total yards were impressive, but the turnovers negated a lot of that good. The turnovers also need to stop, with 16 now in the past five games.

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The game plan: Nebraska cued itself up to stop the Michigan State power run game and did a pretty good job of making tailback Jeremy Langford earn his yards. NU defensive end Randy Gregory and mates also dialed up steady pressure on MSU quarterback Connor Cook, who started out 0-for-4 passing.

The adjustments: The Spartans switched to some max protection and, with Cook getting a little more time, came through with key completions in the second half. The demands of being on the field for 38:37 also started to show on the blackshirts as Langford ran for 68 yards in the fourth quarter.

NU star: Gregory was at it again with a sack, eight total tackles and four quarterback hurries.

Stat of the game: Michigan State converted 52.4 percent of its third downs (11 of 21). Nebraska came into the game allowing opponents to convert at just a 27.1 percent clip.

Final word: NU’s defense had done a good job of minimizing damage after turnovers the past six quarters, but ultimately was put in too many bad positions. MSU managed 361 total yards, but ran 80 plays. Big keys, however, were the Spartans’ success on third down and the Huskers not forcing any turnovers of their own.

About Rich Kaipust

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football. You can follow Rich on Twitter (@RKaipustOWH) or email him at