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Nugent: Hats off to the Huskers defense completely shutting down Michigan State in second half

Michigan State and Nebraska play during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25,...
Michigan State and Nebraska play during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)(Al Goldis | AP)
Published: Sep. 25, 2021 at 11:20 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As tough of a loss as this is, and it’s a tough one, the defense was just as good in the second half. Total yardage, Nebraska 234 to Michigan State’s 14. The Huskers had eight first downs in the second half, Michigan State zero. They were shut out, didn’t move the chains once in the second half. The Spartans had one yard of offense in the fourth quarter.

That is almost unheard of, especially when you consider the Spartans were the best running team in the country coming into this game. Kenneth Walker III was averaging 164 yards a game and more than eight yards per carry. On this night, he had 61 yards on 19 carries. That’s an average of only 3.2 yards per carry. Less than half of his 8.6 average.

The Huskers defense did more than enough to win this game, it also intercepted Payton Thorne once and sacked the quarterback three times.

What was the difference, where did the Huskers lose? Penalties, turnovers, special teams. The same stuff the coaches have been harping on for more than a year. Michigan State won the turnover margin 2-1. NU had seven penalties for 50 yards compared to four for 34 yards for the home team. Then, special teams, the issues move from one place to the next. On this night it was the punt team, covering punts.

Thanks to a breakdown in coverage Michigan State found the endzone, and when I say found, think needle in a haystack. It was not going to happen in a traditional manner, the Spartans did not have an answer for the Huskers defense. Daniel Churni’s punt with less than four minutes to go went to the left while most of the coverage team went to the right. They were not on the same page and that was Churni’s last punt, the one that was returned 62 yards for a Spartans touchdown.

Michigan State had very few paths to victory once Nebraska took the 20-13 fourth-quarter lead, yet the Spartans found a way.

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