Lincoln – Nebraska was unable to overcome five turnovers, all in its own territory, on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, as the No. 14 Michigan State Spartans improved to 9-1 on the year and 6-0 in the Big Ten with a 41-28 win. The victory clinched at least a share of the Big Ten Legends Division title for the Spartans.
The Huskers slipped to 7-3 overall and 4-2 in conference play, even though the Huskers rolled up 392 yards of offense, the first time in 2013 that a team has topped the 300-yard barrier against the Spartans. MSU entered the game allowing a nation-best 210.2 yards per game.
Michigan State held a commanding 38:37 to 21:23 advantage in time of possession and converted the five NU turnovers into 24 points.
Ameer Abdullah and the Nebraska rushing attacked pounded out 182 yards on 32 carries, including 123 yards from Abdullah. The Spartans entered the game ranked No. 1 in the country in rushing defense, allowing 43.4 yards per game and hadn’t allowed a team – let alone an individual – to top the 100-yard mark all season.
Abdullah, a junior from Homewood, Ala., produced the first 100-yard game against the Spartans since he ran for 110 yards and Taylor Martinez ran for 205 yards in Nebraska’s 28-24 win in East Lansing last season.
Jeremy Langford led MSU’s offense with a career-high 151 yards on the ground and tied a career-high with three touchdowns. Quarterback Connor Cook was 15-for-31 for 193 yards and one score, while leading a Spartan offense that was 11-of-21 on third down.
The Husker defense did all it could, but ran out of steam after being on the field for nearly two-thirds of the game. Ciante Evans and David Santos each produced a pair of TFLs, as NU totaled eight on the day. Evans and Randy Gregory each came through with one sack, including Gregory’s eighth sack during league play.
The Spartans struck first, turning a Nebraska turnover into three points. After NU fumbled an option pitch on its first drive of the game, MSU took over inside Nebraska territory at the 40-yard line. Langford accounted for all 12 yards on the drive on three carries, before Michael Geiger buried a 45-yard field goal to give the Spartans an early 3-0 lead.
MSU’s offense wasn’t off the field long, as redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. was picked off by Kurtis Drummond at the Nebraska 46-yard line on the second play of the following drive. The Husker defense came to the rescue though, as it forced a punt following a quick 3-and-out.
After the Blackshirts forced a second straight 3-and-out, NU’s third turnover of the first quarter again gave the Spartans great field position. Jordan Westerkamp was unable to reel in a punt and the Spartans took over 1st-and-goal at the 8-yard line. MSU scored two plays later on a five-yard carry by R.J. Shelton and following the PAT, took a 10-0 lead with 4:57 remaining in the first quarter.
With its back against the ropes, the Husker offense responded with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. After Abdullah picked up a first down on a pair of runs, Armstrong connected with Sam Burtch for 26 yards, then ran for five yards and again found Burtch wide open for a 32-yard score. It was the third touchdown catch of the season for the sophomore from Murdock, Neb., and he ended the game with five catches for 86 yards, both career highs.
The Spartans came back with a 17-play drive that drained 7:10 off the clock, both season highs by an NU opponent in 2013. MSU was able to get in a 1st-and-goal situation, but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Geiger, stretching its lead to 13-7.
With a chance to head into halftime only down by six, the Huskers committed their fourth turnover on an Armstrong fumble. The Spartans took over at the NU 22-yard line with 1:00 minute on the clock and no timeouts. Three plays later, Langford plunged into the end zone on a six-yard carry for his 11th touchdown of the season, giving the Spartans a 20-7 heading into halftime.
The Spartans held the ball for nearly 20 minutes in the first half, posting a 8:50 advantage in time of possession, but only outgained the Huskers by four yards, 169-165.
Michigan State got the ball to start the second half, but only picked up four yards on the drive and was forced to punt. Nebraska offense fed off the momentum set by the defense, as Imani Cross rumbled for a career-long 51-yard touchdown to get the Huskers within six at 20-14.
Cross’ run pushed the Huskers over 100 yards rushing on the day, marking the first time this season that the Spartans had given up 100 yards rushing in a game. It was also the second-longest run by an opposing running back, trailing a 64-yard touchdown run by Indiana’s Tevin Coleman.
The Spartans got the points back later in the quarter following Nebraska’s fifth turnover of the game. Trapped at the 1-yard line after a punt by Mike Sadler, Armstrong was unable to secure the snap and Trae Waynes recovered at the three-yard line to set up the MSU offense. One play later, Langford crossed the goal line, pushing MSU’s lead to 27-14.
Armstrong and the offense came back on the field and responded with an 11-play drive that was capped with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell to again get the Huskers within six. The Huskers converted three third downs on the drive, including a 14-yard pass to Burtch on 3rd-and-11 and the touchdown pass to Bell on 3rd-and-9.
Nebraska had more chances to take the lead with a touchdown before Michigan State put the game out of reach. With 13:42 left on the clock, the Spartans put together a 10-play scoring drive, that was extended on a fake field goal on 4th-and-1 from the Nebraska 27. Four plays later, Cook connected with Keith Mumphery for a 27-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-13. It was MSU’s ninth 3rd-down conversion in 19 tries to that point in the game.
Each team added a score in the final two minutes. Ron Kellogg III led NU’s final drive of the game, going 8-for-11 for 67 yards, including a 12 yard touchdown pass to Abdullah.
Nebraska returns to Big Ten road action next week when the Huskers take on Penn State on Saturday in State College, Pa. Game time and TV information will be announced later tonight or tomorrow by the Big Ten Conference.
Final: Nebraska 28, Michigan State 41
Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (MSU, 10-7)
MSU - 12:23 - Michael Geiger 45 FG - 7 plays, 12 yards, 1:47, MSU 3-0
MSU - 4:57 - R.J. Shelton 5 run (Geiger kick) - 2 plays, 8 yards, 0:46, MSU 10-0
NEB - 2:44 - Sam Burtch 32 pass from Tommy Armstrong (Smith kick) - 5 plays, 75 yards, 2:13, MSU 10-7
Second Quarter (MSU, 20-7)
MSU - 10:29 - Michael Geiger 25 FG - 17 plays, 74 yards, 7:10, MSU 13-7
MSU - 0:21 - Jeremy Langford 6 run (Geiger kick) - 3 plays, 22 yards, 0:39, MSU 20-7
Third Quarter (MSU, 27-21)
NEB - 12:26 - Imani Cross 51 run (Smith kick) - 3 plays, 63 yards, 1:01, MSU 20-14
MSU - 5:26 - Jeremy Langford 3 run (Geiger kick) - 1 play, 3 yards, 0:04, MSU 27-14
NEB - 1:12 - Kenny Bell 38 pass from Tommy Armstrong (Smith kick), 11 plays, 79 yards, 4:09, MSU 27-21
Fourth Quarter (MSU, 41-28)
MSU - 7:56 - Keith Mumphery 27 pass from Connor Cook - 10 plays, 75 yards, 5:46, MSU 34-21
MSU - 1:58 - Landford run (Geiger kick) - 8 plays, 67 yards, 5:06, MSU 41-21
NEB - 0:10 - Ameer Abdullah pass from Ron Kellogg III, 12 players, 75 yards, 1:48, MSU 41-28
Final: Nebraska 41, Michigan State 28
Time of Game: 3:36
Game Start: 2:37 p.m. (central)