Recap: Michigan State vs. Nebraska
East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - After taking a huge lead into the fourth quarter, No. 10 Michigan State had to fight for its life to pull out a 27-22 win over 19th-ranked Nebraska on Saturday night at Spartan Stadium.
Tony Lippett caught a touchdown pass and ran in another for MSU (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten), which led 27-3 through 45 minutes before the upset-minded Cornhuskers began chipping away.
Ameer Abdullah, the nation's leading rusher coming into the game, was held in check on the ground but scored two rushing touchdowns in the final period. De'Mornay Pierson-El added a punt return touchdown and after Spartans kicker Michael Geiger hit the left upright with a field goal try, Nebraska took over with 1:07 remaining at its own 20.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. fired a strike to Alonzo Moore down the right sideline for 43 yards into MSU territory. Armstrong looked for Moore again on the next play, nearly connecting with the sophomore receiver in the back of the end zone, but the ball popped free from Moore as he went to the ground. Armstrong was intercepted by Trae Waynes on the very next play.
Connor Cook completed 11-of-29 passes for 234 yards, a touchdown and an interception during an uneven performance under center for the Spartans, who beat Nebraska for the second straight season. Jeremy Langford carried 29 times for 111 yards and a score.
"Obviously, our defense played extremely well," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. "Offensively, we didn't run or pass as effectively, but things are going to happen. We will take 4-1 and will move on to Purdue next week."
The Cornhuskers (5-1, 1-1) were the last unbeaten team in the Big Ten.
Cook overcame an early pick and gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead when he went up top to Lippett, who hauled in a fingertip catch down the left sideline and went in untouched for a 55-yard touchdown.
Late in the first quarter, Mike Sadler showed why he is one of the nation's best punters when he pinned Nebraska at its own 1. A three-and-out from there led to Langford shaking off multiple defenders on the first play from scrimmage before tip-toeing down the right sideline for a 31-yard touchdown.
Macgarrett Kings fumbled midway through the second to set up Nebraska with its first opportunity in the red zone, but again the MSU defense made a stand. Two plays after Abdullah muscled his way for a 10-yard reception down to the 12, the standout running back took a wildcat snap and darted forward and had the ball punched loose by Ed Davis. Shilique Calhoun recovered for the Spartans and ran it back to the MSU 45.
The turnover led to Geiger's 28-yard field goal, and the Spartans stretched their lead to 17-0.
Geiger kicked another short field goal early in the third, and Drew Brown matched him with a 40-yard kick to put Nebraska on the board.
Lippett hauled in an 18-yard catch on the next possession and made it 27-3 later in the drive when he took a reverse 32 yards to the end zone.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Huskers.
Pierson-El returned a Sadler punt 33 yards to the MSU 43. Armstrong ran 11 yards to start the drive, which Abdullah capped with a 2-yard touchdown plunge. Nebraska went for the two-point conversion, but backup quarterback Ryker Fyfe fumbled the snap.
Nebraska turned it over on downs on its next possession and MSU ate more than five minutes off the clock before punting it back. A 41-yard pass to Jordan Westerkamp and a pass interference penalty led to Abdullah's second rushing score of the contest with 4:10 remaining.
"That's just us playing our football," Armstrong said. "The first three quarters we struggled; up front we struggled, out wide we struggled, myself, I struggled. We just couldn't get a groove, couldn't execute and it came back to haunt us."
Langford was stuffed on 3rd-and-2, and Nebraska burned its final timeout to stop the clock at 3:37. Sadler punted short, and Pierson-El wiggled his way through the coverage before outrunning the punter to make it a 27-22 game. Again, Nebraska's two-point conversion failed.
Brown's onside kick failed, leading to Geiger's missed 37-yarder and near- comeback.Game Notes
Armstrong fell to 12-2 as Nebraska's starting QB. Both losses have come to
Michigan State ... Nebraska leads the all-time series, 7-2 ... Westerkamp made
nine catches for 158 yards.