Well, that got interesting all of a sudden.
Michigan State watched plenty of film of Nebraska and knew that to stop Nebraska, you had to stop Ameer Abdullah. But unlike Fresno State and McNeese State, the Spartans didn't need to stack the box. Just commit the linebackers, and more importantly, completely discombobulate the Nebraska offensive line.
How bad was it?
And despite all that ineptitude, Nebraska somehow managed to get back into the game and nearly pull off the incredible comeback.
Tim Beck has taken a lot of criticism in the past for giving up on the run; tonight, he deserves criticism for sticking with the run as long as he did. It was clear that Nebraska wasn't going to be able to run the ball and that they needed to loosen up the defense deeper. And when Nebraska did that in the second half, the offense started to move the ball a bit. Screen passes weren't going to loosen things up.
Defensively, the Nebraska defense did what they could, save for two busted plays. Vincent Valentine gets his noggin' into Connor Cook's face on the second play of the game, with the ball deflecting to Randy Gregory. You'd think that Nebraska would have the lead early, but Nebraska's offensive impotence scuttled that.
On Thursday in my preview, I worried the most about Cook, Tony Lippett, and Jeremy Langford. Nebraska did a decent job keeping Cook in check most of the night, as he only completed 38% of his passes...but when he did find Lippett early on, it was deadly after Daniel Davie had to leave the game. Out went Jonathan Rose after getting seared by Lippett, and in came true freshman Josh Kalu at corner who played really well.
So did Trevor Roach, in relief of Josh Banderas who continues to struggle. When Michael Rose tore his ACL in August, I wasn't too concerned because I figured Banderas would be fine to cover for him. Well, he's not. Zaire Anderson, David Santos, and Trevor Roach all have played better this season. But that's a pretty good threesome to work with moving forward the rest of this season.
Want to take a moral victory over this game? I wouldn't. Nebraska nearly pulled it out of the fire, and while that speaks volumes about the moral fiber of the program, the scoreboard still reads 27-22. The defense is progressing nicely, but the offense is simply too inconsistent. It starts up front, and progresses to quarterback. Tommy Armstrong was simply too erratic tonight; he doesn't look off his primary receiver, and when he's pressured, he throws off his back foot leading to underthrows. And more than once, he overthrew a wide open Ameer Abdullah who could have made a huge gain.
It's a bad loss for Nebraska. It doesn't eliminate them from the Big Ten race, and considering the number of upsets, it doesn't completely eliminate them from the college football playoff either. Though as we learned today, it's rather silly to worry about the playoff two months ahead of time as we should realize that upsets are a given in college football. So forget about that for the time being, and simply worry about beating the resurgent Northwestern Wildcats in a couple of weeks.