Posted by Adam Jacobi
NEBRASKA WON. The Nebraska defense was stout in victory on Saturday, holding No. 11 Michigan State to just 187 yards and 12 first downs in an easy 24-3 victory at Memorial Stadium. Kirk Cousins was especially ineffective for MSU, going 11/27 for 86 yards and one interception. Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead was an absolute monster for the Huskers, with 35 carries for 130 yards and two scores, and a 27-yard touchdown reception on top of it.
WHY NEBRASKA WON: It would be wrong to take anything away from Nebraska's effort on Saturday, which was both exemplary and the best of the Huskers' season. Having said that, there was only one team that came ready to play in this game. Nebraska routinely converted 3rd and long on what was supposed to be the best defense in the Big Ten, and the toll of those physical drives on the MSU defense became readily evident down the stretch.
WHEN NEBRASKA WON: The game was still well within reach for MSU with the game at 17-3 midway through the third quarter. Rex Burkhead had just left the field with an injury and Nebraska faced a 3rd and 11 near midfield. Unfortunately, Taylor Martinez found Kenny Bell for a 20-yard first down, Burkhead came back in the game on the next snap, and Martinez found Burkhead out of the backfield for an easy 27-yard touchdown on the next play. That pushed the score to 24-3, where it would remain for the rest of the game, and MSU never threatened to score after that.
WHAT NEBRASKA WON: Nebraska's not only tied for the division lead now, it's got a tiebreaker lead on the Spartans. Road games at Michigan and PSU also loom for the Huskers, but still: this was a huge win. The Husker defense, which had long been a weak spot of this season's team (even before Jared Crick was lost for the year), was dominant against the Spartan offense. For once, Nebraska looked like it belonged in the Top 15, and it's got its biggest win of the season to show for it.
WHAT MICHIGAN STATE LOST: Gone for Michigan State is its perfect conference record, which is the biggie here; the Spartans are now in a four-team tie with one loss in the Legends Division (pending Iowa's game at Minnesota). But this is the second time that Michigan State has been utterly stifled on offense this season, which is shocking given the amount of talent at every portion of the MSU offense. The Spartans are still in decent shape in the division race, but their offensive production on road games has been disturbingly absent. That can't continue.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Kirk Cousins threw an interception. Just one. It should have been more, but on 3rd and goal near the end of the first half, an errant Cousins throw found its way into the waiting arms of Nebraska DB Daimion Stafford, who was off to the races for what was about to be a 95-yard pick-six. Unfortunately, Stafford was so eager to take the interception to the house that he never secured possession, and he dropped the ball to the field for a harmless incompletion. MSU took the field goal instead to make the score 10-3. So yes, a 24-3 loss is bad enough, but this could have easily been a 31-0 win for Nebraska.