Brandon Reilly hauled in the go-ahead touchdown with 17 second left
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Take Down #6 Spartans, 39-38

By NU Athletic Communications
Nebraska 
39
38
Michigan State
Final Stats
Score by quarters
  1 2 3 4 TOTAL
Nebraska 10 3 7 19 39
Michigan State 3 14 14 7 38
Rushing Leaders
(stats updated after each quarter)
  No. Yards Avg. TD Long
Cross (NU) 15 87 5.8 1 21
Holmes (MSU) 17 110 6.5 0 43
Passing Leaders
(stats updated after each quarter)
  Comp.-Att.-Int Yards TD
Armstrong (NU) 13-23-2 180 1
Cook (MSU) 17-28-1 263 4
Receiving Leaders
(stats updated after each quarter)
  No. Yards TD Long
Westerkamp (NU) 6 60 1 38
Burbridge (MSU) 8 140 1 33
Tackle Leaders
(stats updated after each quarter)
  Tackles TFLs Sacks
Gerry (NU) 10 0 0
Harris (MSU) 12 2 0
Game NOTES

The 39-38 victory marked Nebraska’s 17th straight victory in a night game at Memorial Stadium, dating back to 2008. The Huskers have lost just five times in night games at Memorial Stadium.

* Nebraska trailled 38-26 with under two minutes remaining. The 12-point fourth-quarter comeback tied for the largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history. It marks the fourth time NU has erased a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter and rallied for victory. The last time is occurred was in 2012, when Nebraska trailed 28-16 at Northwestern and won 29-28.

Nebraska defeated a top-six opponent for the first time in 14 seasons, dating back to a 20-10 win over No. 2 Oklahoma in Lincoln on Oct. 27, 2001. The win marked only the ninth time in school history that Nebraska has defeated a top-six opponent at Memorial Stadium. The win was Nebraska’s first victory over a top-10 opponent in five seasons, dating back to a 24-3 win over No. 9 Michigan State on Oct. 29, 2011.

* The win marks Mike Riley’s sixth victory over a top-10 opponent in the past 10 seasons, and is the second straight season he has coached his team to a win over an opponent ranked seventh or higher in the AP poll. 

* Nebraska knocked off an unbeaten opponent in the month of November for just the sixth time in school history and for the first time in 16 seasons, dating back to a 41-15 victory over a 9-0 Kansas State squad on Nov. 13, 1999.

* The win over No. 6 Michigan State marked the highest ranked opponent a first-year Husker coach has ever defeated. The previous high had been Nebraska’s 19-3 victory over Texas in the 1974 Cotton Bowl following Tom Osborne’s first season as head coach in 1973.

* The win marked only the third time in school history that an unranked Nebraska team upset a top-10 opponent. It was the first such upset in nearly 40 years dating back to Sept. 17, 1977, when unranked Nebraska knocked off No. 4 Alabama, 31-24. 

Lincoln - In a season of unbelievable endings, the Nebraska football team finally had one go its way, pulling a 39-38 upset of previously unbeaten No. 6 Michigan State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.

Playing in front of the 346th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium with a season-high 90,094 fans on hand, Nebraska's two touchdowns in the game's final 1:47 rallied the Huskers from a 38-26 fourth-quarter deficit for the victory to match the largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history.

Tommy Armstrong Jr. produced an heroic fourth quarter, having a hand in all three Nebraska touchdowns to help the Big Red improve to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. Michigan State slipped to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the conference.

Armstrong, who missed last week's game with an injury, returned to complete 19-of-33 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, while adding seven carries for 19 yards and two more scores on the ground. He also overcame a pair of interceptions.

In the fourth quarter, Armstrong completed 6-of-10 passes for 140 yards, including three huge completions for 91 yards on the game's decisive drive. The Huskers trailed 38-33 with 55 seconds left and faced 91 yards of gridiron against a tough Spartan defense.

On the first play, Armstrong hit Jordan Westerkamp on a 28-yard strike to quickly advance to the NU 37. Seconds later, Armstrong hooked up with Westerkamp down the middle again, this time for 33 yards to the MSU 30. Westerkamp, who finished with nine catches for a season-high 143 yards, left the game with an injury on the play, leaving the receiving heroics to another junior receiver. Westerkamp finished with his school-record-tying fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season.

On second down, Armstrong hit Brandon Reilly, who made a terrific adjustment on the ball after being forced out of bounds by a Spartan defender, on a 30-yard touchdown strike to give the Huskers a 39-38 lead. It was one of three highlight-reel receptions for for Reilly on the night, as he finished with three catches for 87 yards, while adding a 17-yard run.

Following the go-ahead touchdown, the Big Red two-point conversion pass attempt failed again, leaving 17 seconds between Nebraska and victory.

Michigan State still had a chance with two timeouts left after starting the drive at the NU 41. Connor Cook, who finished 23-of-37 through the air for 335 yards and four touchdowns, hit Macgarrett Kings for 17 yards across the middle to push the Spartans to the NU 41 with seven seconds left.

After a timeout, the Huskers collapsed the pocket around Cook, who threw the ball incomplete out of bounds to the Nebraska sideline as time expired, setting off a wild celebration inside the stadium. Husker players, who have been stung by five setbacks by five points or less, remained on the field for several minutes to enjoy the home win inside the historic stadium.

Nebraska finished the game with 499 yards of total offense while Michigan State produced 491 total yards. The Huskers outgained the Spartans on the ground, 179-143, despite an injury to starting running back to Terrell Newby coming into the game. Newby rushed just four times for eight yards on the night.

Imani Cross stepped into carry the rushing load for the Big Red, pounding his way 18 times for 98 yards and one score. MSU's Gerald Holmes led all rushers with 117 yards and one score on 22 carries.

Michigan State outyarded the Huskers through the air, 348-320, but Nebraska made up for it with 123 yards on five kickoff returns, while also benefitting from a pair of tack-on 15-yard penalties on their returns and an MSU kick out of bounds. Those plays consistently set the Huskers up with short fields on offense. The Spartans finished with eight penalties for 76 yards, while Nebraska was flagged just five times for 55 yards. The Huskers did overcome a pair of interceptions.

Trailing 31-20 entering the fourth quarter, Nebraska continued to battle, as Armstrong punched it into the end zone from three yards out early in the fourth quarter to narrow the MSU lead to 31-26 with 13:06 left. Armstrong's first touchdown run capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive, but NU's two-point conversion attempt failed on an incomplete pass from Armstrong to Westerkamp.

Cook then coordinated a massive 16-play, 75-yard march that ate up 8:50 on the clock. The drive culminated with Holmes' one-yard touchdown run to put MSU up 38-26 with just 4:16 left. 

But the Huskers refused to fold, as Armstrong orchestrated a 10-play, 53-yard touchdown drive capped by his own one-yard touchdown run. Drew Brown's extra point pulled NU to 38-33 with 1:47 left.

The dramatic ending would not have been possible without a three-and-out from the Blackshirt defense. The Huskers used two timeouts to stop the clock, but the Spartan offensive line may have made the game's biggest mistake with a holding penalty on third down that stopped the clock, preserving precious seconds for Armstrong and the Husker offense.

In a back-and-forth game, Nebraska jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, thanks to a 44-yard Brown field goal and a 38-yard touchdown pass from Armstrong to Westerkamp with 2:07 left in the quarter. Armstrong's scoring strike to Westerkamp capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 3:28.

Michigan State closed the gap to 10-3 at the end of the opening quarter on Michael Geiger's 46-yard field goal with 30 seconds left. The Huskers outgained the Spartans 125-84 in the quarter, including an 89-9 edge through the air.

The Spartans continued to rally in the second quarter, as Cook connected with Macgarrett Kings on a 34-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 10 with 11:35 left in the half.

The Huskers answered with a 43-yard field goal from Brown to regain a 13-10 edge with 4:21 left in the half, before Cook and Kings connected on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left in the second quarter to take a 17-13 lead into halftime. Kings finished with four catches for 97 yards and two scores.

In stark contrast to the first quarter, the Spartans threw for 129 in the second quarter compared to just three yards for the Huskers. MSU led 225-190 in total yardage at halftime, but NU led 98-87 on the ground.

Nebraska took the lead back on the opening drive of the second half, as Cross blasted his way to paydirt from one yard out with 12:31 left in the third quarter to cap a six-play, 69-yard drive and give the Huskers a 20-17 lead.

Cook and Michigan State answered again with a six-play drive that covered 84 yards in 3:13 capped by a 33-yard touchdown strike to Aaron Burbridge to regain a 24-20 edge. Burbridge finished with game highs of 10 receptions and 164 yards.

The Huskers were prepared to provide an answer of their own again, driving deep into MSU territory before Armstrong threw his second interception of the game. Riley Bullough intercepted the pass near the MSU goaline and returned it 17 yards. The Spartans capitalized 10 plays later with Cook's fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 16-yard connection with Jamal Lyles to send MSU to the fourth quarter with a 31-20 advantage.

Nebraska returns to Big Ten road action next week, when the Huskers travel to Rutgers. Kickoff with the Scarlet Knights is set for 2:30 p.m.

 

 SCORING SUMMARY

Nebraska vs Michigan State
Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)

First Quarter (NU 10-3)
NU 7:01 - Drew Brown 44 kick. 9 plays, 38 yards, 4:01. NU 3-0.

NU 2:07 - Jordan Westerkamp 38 pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr (Brown PAT). 7 plays, 80 yards, 3:28. NU 10-0.

MSU 0:30 - Michael Geiger 46 kick. 5 plays, 42 yards, 1:33. NU 10-3.

Second Quarter (MSU 17-13)
MSU 11:35 - Macgarrett Kings 38 pass from Connor Cook (Geiger PAT). 6 plays, 57 yards, 2:44. 10-10.

NU 4:21 - Brown 43 kick. 8 plays, 35 plays, 3:04. NU 13-10.

MSU 0:17 - Kings 18 pass from Cook (Geiger PAT). 10 plays, 75 yards, 4:04. MSU 17-13

Third Quarter (MSU 31-20)
NU 12:31 - Imani Cross 1 run (Brown PAT). 6 plays, 69 yards, 2:26. NU 20-17.

MSU 9:13 - Aaron Burbridge 33 pass from Cook (Geiger PAT). 6 plays, 84 yards, 3:13. MSU 24-20.

MSU 2:14 - Jamal Lyles 16 pass from Cook (Geiger PAT). 10 plays, 83 yards, 2:14. MSU 31-20.

Fourth Quarter (NU 39-38)
NU 13:06 - Armstrong 2 run (2-pt failed). 11 plays, 65 yards, 4:08. MSU 31-26.

MSU 4:16 - Gerald Holmes 1 run (Geiger PAT). 16 plays, 75 yards, 8:50. MSU 38-26.

NU 1:47 - Armstrong 1 run (Brown PAT). 10 plays, 53 yards, 2:23. MUS 38-33.

NU 0:17 - Brandon Reilly 30 pass from Armstrong (2-pt failed). 4 plays, 91 yards, 0:38. NU 39-38.

Attendance: 90,094
Time of Game: 3:38
Game Start: 6:05 p.m.

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