Game replay: Nebraska 9, Michigan State 6
LINCOLN — Four keys from Nebraska’s 9-6 win over Michigan State on Saturday, including a peculiar play, a questionable call and more.
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Early in the game, Nebraska running back Maurice Washington appeared to lose a fumble that, after a scrum, was recovered by Michigan State. But officials originally said Washington was down before losing the ball, so instant replay was the only way to overturn the ruling of no fumble. While the booth reviewed it, officials announced that neither team had conclusively recovered the fumble in the immediate aftermath of Washington losing it, so, on a technicality, Nebraska kept the ball.
Memorial Stadium fans lustily booed officials multiple times in the first half. First, MSU defenders weren’t flagged for a clear late hit after NU receiver Stanley Morgan completed an 18-yard punt return. Morgan was 2 yards out of bounds. Later, in the second quarter, inside linebacker Mohamed Barry was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he pulled an MSU offensive lineman off cornerback Dicaprio Bootle, who’d been pancaked after a tackle. Though Michigan State was flagged for four personal fouls — and seemed plenty pleased with itself to be chippy and aggressive — officials may have left a few flags in their pockets. Fans also thought two pass-interference calls on Lamar Jackson were wrong. The latter, on MSU’s final drive, was particularly iffy.
When Nebraska had to close out a game in the fourth quarter, it did so better than it had against Colorado and Northwestern. The Huskers grinded out a key first down against MSU’s defense to quell any possibility of a last-minute comeback. Nebraska’s offense didn’t do much Saturday, but it ended the game on the field, and that’s growth.
Nebraska’s secondary had its best game Saturday. While conditions weren’t favorable to passing the ball, NU’s corners — Bootle and Jackson — stuck to their receivers on go routes up the sideline while safeties Antonio Reed, Aaron Williams and Tre Neal consistently delivered big hits to Michigan State skill players. MSU’s biggest pass play — a 36-yarder to running back Connor Heyward — was against outside linebacker Luke Gifford. Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher deserves credit for continuing to work with the secondary. Over the last month — even against Ohio State — the pass defense has steadily improved. You just wish Nebraska returned all three safeties next season. You wish, mostly, Nebraska hadn’t needed Reed and Williams as true freshmen in 2015.