Coming into tonight's game, the #7 Michigan State Spartans were only favored by four points against the 3-6 Nebraska Cornhuskers. It felt odd, but maybe the odds makers in Vegas knew something that the rest of us simply needed to wait to learn. Because not only did the Huskers cover, they pulled off the upset over the previously undefeated Spartans and kept their bowl game chances alive as they were able to find a way to win in the waning moments with a 39-38 final score.
Oddly, the Spartans had an opportunity early in the game that they probably regret now in hindsight. They had the ball down just outside of the red zone, but with a fourth and one down at the 23 yard line when LJ Scott was tackled in the backfield and ended up losing two yards for the Huskers to take possession. Obviously they could have used those three points later in the game, but hindsight is always 20-20.
From there the Huskers were able to get the first points of the game later in the first quarter when Imani Cross and Alonzo Moore were both able to convert third downs before Drew Brown would put a 44 yard field goal right through the pipes to get the Huskers an early three point lead.
The Blackshirt defense of the Huskers forced another three and out on the Spartans next offensive possession and Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed a pass to Brandon Reilly early in their next drive to get the ball to midfield, Cross had a key two yard gain on a fourth down conversion. On the next play they went deep and Jordan Westerkamp caught the touchdown pass as they connected from 38 yards out and the Huskers were up 10-0.
The Spartans would quickly respond though as Michael Geiger would hit a 48 yard field goal of his own, and then in the second quarter, Connor Cook would connect on his first touchdown of the game to Macgarrett Kings Jr. from 34 yards out and the game was tied early in the second quarter with 11:35 left in the period.
Both quarterbacks would through an interception in the second quarter and each team would score once again. Brown hit one just shy of his last time as he connected from 43 yards out. But the Spartans would respond with a touchdown to get their first lead of the night as Kings Jr. would catch another touchdown pass, this time from 18 yards out to put the Spartans up 17-13 as the teams would head into their respective locker rooms for the halftime festivities.
The second half was going to be all about offensive play, as there would only be three total drives between the two teams that would not result in touchdowns. The Huskers got the ball first and Moore had a big catch on a 43 yard reception to get the ball down to the one yard line for Cross to get his first touchdown of the game.
Connor Cook would find someone new for his next touchdown as Aaron Burbridge would catch it from 33 yards out for the touchdown to retake the lead. The Huskers went back into the red zone and on a second and goal Riley Bullough intercepted Armstrong and got Sparty the ball back as Cook would find Jamal Lyles from 16 yards out as he had his fourth touchdown of the game while it was still in the third quarter. They were up 31-20 and things were starting to look bleak for the home squad.
The Huskers went to their ground game on their next drive as Armstrong only completed one pass as Cross was heavily featured on the drive before Andy Janovich would get a carry. But the drive would end with Armstrong rushing for the touchdown on a third and goal from the two yard line, but they would not get the two point conversion and trailed by five.
Gerald Holmes concluded the longest drive of the game for either team when he scored a rushing touchdown that seemed like a nail in the coffin for the Huskers chances. Not only did the Spartans go back up by 12 points, but there was just over four minutes left in the game, and two possessions in four minutes is just simply not easy.
The Huskers would drive down the field again, and Armstrong would be the one to get into the end zone again with a rushing touchdown as they were now trailing by five with 1:47 left in the game. Brown's onside kick was recovered by Michigan State. Nebraska had to use their two timeouts on defense but were able to force a three and out as Michigan State decided to run the ball on third down and eight for no gain.
Nebraska had 55 seconds to go 91 yards with no timeouts, but in college the clock stops after each first down. Armstrong Jr. found Westerkamp for completions on the first two plays of the drive, for 28 yards and then 33 yards to get to the Spartans 30 yard line. After an incompletion, Brandon Reilly would score a controversial touchdown to give the Huskers a one point lead. They once again failed the two point conversion.
Michigan State would get to the Huskers 41 yard line with seven seconds left, but it just wasn't meant to be as the Huskers would stop their final play as the ball fell incomplete. They finally got the victory in the closing minutes, as they won 39-38.