Michigan State vs. Nebraska: 5 Things We Learned in Huskers' Win over Spartans
Nebraska beat No. 11 Michigan State 24-3, holding the Spartans under 200 yards of total offense and allowing only one score (off a Nebraska turnover).
The much-maligned Nebraska defense made a strong showing, sacking Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins four times.
Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead was the star of the show offensively, gaining 157 yards of total offense and scoring three touchdowns.
So with Nebraska back in the driver’s seat of the Legends Division, what did we learn from Saturday’s win over the Michigan State Spartans?
In Bo We Trust
He kept telling us: they’re a step away; just a couple more plays and the defense is going to be really good. And most of us thought it was just coachspeak, a way to keep a flagging defensive unit’s confidence up as it faced the meat of the conference season.
Apparently, he was right. Against Michigan State, NU generated good pressure from the front four; something that hadn’t happened all year.
The defense tackled well in space; something that hadn’t happened consistently all year. And the secondary got consistently good coverage downfield; something that didn’t happen all year.
Once again, Bo Pelini’s defense ruined the draft stock of another pocket passer quarterback. If the unit doesn’t get awarded Blackshirts after this performance, it never will.
In Rex We Trust
You’ve been reading it here all year, and now everyone has figured it out. Running back Rex Burkhead is Nebraska’s most important player on offense.
Once again, Burkhead came through, rushing for over 100 yards, catching a ball out of the backfield, and scoring three touchdowns.
In the impressive, time-consuming, and extended drives where Nebraska put the game away, it was Burkhead’s balance, elusiveness, vision and power that kept the UN chains moving.
In Experience We Trust
Make no mistake, this was a must-win game for Nebraska to keep hopes of a divisional title alive. In that crucible, Bo Pelini turned to his experienced players to make a difference.
It was Rex Burkhead, not true freshman Ameer Abdullah, seeing most of the punt return duties. It was Brandon Kinnie catching the critical hitch patterns for first downs.
It was Tim Marlowe who got the ball on the jet sweep early in the game. Heck, it was even Andrew Green who got the start at corner over converted wide receiver Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
In the Red Sea We Trust
At the end of the Ohio State game, the Children of the Corn rose to the occasion, making Memorial Stadium an intimidating place for the Buckeyes and helping to melt away Ohio State’s second-half lead.
But against Michigan State, the crowd brought its A-game from the opening kickoff, and that crowd noise had to feed Nebraska’s intensity on offense and defense.
Bo's Best Win, but Not a Signature Win
Yes, the win is a phenomenal boost for Nebraska. But more importantly, given the catastrophic damage a loss would have done to Nebraska’s conference title hopes, the win over Michigan State is Pelini’s most significant one.
It’s not a signature win—for Nebraska, that will only come with a conference title and a BCS berth—but it’s the closest Pelini has come to one in his four-year tenure in Lincoln.
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