Michigan State entered Memorial Stadium with a lot of momentum Saturday, but Nebraska defensive back Lance Thorell stole it all away with a first-quarter interception as the Huskers won 24-3. Here is what went well, what didn’t, and everything else you need to satiate your Nebraska football appetite:
Nebraska’s defensive line: The Huskers looked a lot like the Blackshirts fans know and love Saturday, holding the Spartans to just three points. A big part of NU’s success was due to the defensive line, where the front four pressured MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins, registering four sacks on the day. The unit also held Michigan State to just 101 yards rushing, and if not for an interception that set MSU up for a field goal, could have held the Spartans off the scoreboard.
The Huskers’ butterfingers: Nebraska had a solid game plan on offense, one that controlled the clock and wore down a talented Spartan defense. But the Huskers’ O had three total fumbles on the day — one came on Thorell’s interception return — and at some point, that can catch up and bite a team hard. In such a complete victory, it is tough to single out an area of weakness. But NU has struggled with fumbles all season, and with several big games remaining on the schedule, it needs to shore up its ball security.
By the numbers
0: The number of passing yards NU quarterback Taylor Martinez had in the first, second and fourth quarters combined. It isn’t too often when a signal-caller can claim a victory with so many goose eggs, but Martinez did just that, thanks to the strong play of Nebraska’s defense and the offense’s ability to move the ball on the ground. Martinez did make a splash in the third quarter, completing 6-of-7 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. He managed the game well and looked comfortable in the pocket after halftime, despite completing only one pass in the first half for zero yards.
Play of the game
Lance Thorell’s 26-yard interception in the first quarter: MSU received the opening kick and proceeded to march down the field, using the strength of running back Le’Veon Bell to do most of the work. But on third-and-five from the MSU 46-yard line, the Huskers stole all of the Spartans’ momentum when Thorell ripped a pass out of the arms of wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, setting up the Huskers’ first touchdown of the game. That play set the tone for the entire contest, from Nebraska’s physical play on offense to its defensive intensity.
NU’s win guarantees a winning season for the Huskers, the 47th time the squad has done so in the past 50 years.
— By Nate Carey