Michigan Football vs Nebraska: Final Report Card, Player Grades for the Huskers
For the first time since 1911, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) hosted the 22nd-ranked Michigan Wolverines (5-2, 3-0) in a huge Big Ten Legends Division matchup. Nebraska nabbed a 23-9 win over Michigan to move into a tie atop the Legends Division.
The Huskers out-gained Michigan 325 yards to 188, even with a hobbled Taylor Martinez. Martinez injured his ankle in the first half but played through it in the second half.
Michigan played without Denard Robinson, who injured his wrist late in the first half. Redshirt freshman QB Russell Bellomy never got a rhythm going (3-of-16).
The Husker defense nabbed three interceptions in the second half to secure the win.
Taylor Martinez had a very typical day. He went 14-of-24 for 166 yards and a touchdown through the air. He also added 58 yards on 14 carries—29 of those yards came on a solid carry that set up the Abdullah touchdown.
A lost fumble and an interception hurt the junior QB. Fortunately, the defense minimized damage, and Martinez was able to put together a solid-enough effort to get the win.
Ameer Abdullah was the feature back for the Rex Burkhead-less Huskers. He had a solid day, dutifully rushing for 101 yards on 24 attempts with a big touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Following an interception, the Huskers took three plays to go 47 yards to the end zone. Abdullah took the handoff and went 12 yards for the score. That touchdown put Nebraska up 23-9 and put the game out of reach for Michigan.
Marqise Lee of USC had more receptions and yards than the entire Huskers receiving group combined. Lee had 16 catches to Nebraska’s 14. Lee had 345 yards. Nebraska had 166.
It certainly wasn’t a glorious game for the Husker receivers. Nine different players caught passes, but none had more than two receptions.
Kenny Bell led the team with two catches and 51 yards. He also scored on a 32-yard catch to get the Huskers on the board in the second quarter.
It was a quiet day for the Nebraska tight ends. Ben Cotton snagged two catches for 21 yards, but that was all that came from the TEs. The Husker tight ends did a solid job in setting the edge for Martinez and Abdullah. It may not go down in the stat sheets, but it was a solid performance for the Huskers.
Often lost in the scuffle is the offensive line. The Nebraska offensive line put together a solid performance against Michigan’s top-10 defense.
The line kept Martinez upright for most of the game (one sack allowed) and created a 100-yard rusher in Abdullah. Nebraska out-gained the Wolverines 326 to 188 and earned 20 first downs.
As Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald noted, Michigan’s front does a nice job of occupying blockers long enough to let the linebackers fill holes. Nebraska did a solid job of keeping the linebackers off their runners, especially in the fourth quarter.
The defensive line for Nebraska had a difficult task in containing Denard Robinson. That was going to be a monster of a challenge. Then, things got even tougher.
The Husker defensive attack in the first half indicates that the D-line spent a significant amount of time this week working on minimizing penetration in an effort to stop Robinson. The Huskers did that to the tune of 46 yards on 10 carries.
Robinson left the game in the second quarter, forcing the defensive line to change their approach entirely. The line moved into more of a pressure attack focused on pass rush and containing running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
They rose to the occasion.
Holding back the Michigan offense when it is loaded with weapons like Toussaint, Robinson and Roy Roundtree to less than 200 yards isn’t easy. The Huskers made it look that way, though.
Nebraska played defense nearly the entire second half and still managed to keep the Wolverines out of the end zone. Three second-half interceptions destroyed any comeback attempts for Michigan.
Senior LB Sean Fisher played lights-out and snagged one of those three picks to pace the Husker defense.
The stats from the Michigan passing game speak enough to the dominance of the Husker secondary. Michigan went a combined 9-of-27 for 93 yards and three interceptions.
Robinson was 6-of-11 for 55 yards in the first half before he left with the wrist injury. Redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy went 3-of-16 for 38 yards and all three interceptions in the second half.
With the game on the line, it was the secondary that was in the right place at the right time. The Huskers’ final touchdown was set up by a timely interception that ended any hopes for a Michigan comeback.
The Huskers outperformed Michigan in all three phases of the game. In the coverage game, Michigan struggled to get any momentum from field position.
Brett Maher averaged 44.5 yards per punt to Michigan’s 39.8. The kicker also tagged three field goals—tying a career high—and added two extra points to outscore the Wolverine team.
Maher blasted a 51-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to put the Huskers up by a touchdown, providing a much-needed spark to the offense.
The week’s preparations for Denard Robinson were scrapped late in the second quarter, forcing the Huskers to make significant adjustments in the second half.
The coaches used halftime to make those adjustments, and the team responded. Nebraska gave up just three points in the second half and only nine total. They kept the Wolverines out of the end zone and held them to just 166 yards of total offense.
Offensively, it was a methodical and mechanical approach that eventually wore down the Michigan defense. It was a solid game in all aspects.
With the win, the Huskers are tied for first in the Big Ten Legends Division.