EAST LANSING, Mich. –(NU Athletics Nov. 4)–Nebraska had chances on the road but was unable to mount enough offense to overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit in a 20-17 loss at Michigan State on Saturday afternoon in East Lansing.
The Huskers, who slipped to 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten, held Michigan State to just 63 rushing yards on 31 carries, but the Spartans (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten) used several long pass plays to help amass 232 yards through the air. Nebraska went for 154 rushing yards on 41 carries, but managed just 129 yards on 12-of-28 passing.
The Spartans out-gained the Huskers 295-283, but MSU was also flagged seven times for 70 yards, while Nebraska committed no penalties on the day. Nebraska also racked up 19 first downs compared to just 11 for Michigan State.
However, the Spartans got four long pass plays from three different throwers to account for nearly half (141) of their total yardage (295) in the game, including a 46-yard first-quarter pass from Katin Houser to Jaylan Franklin, a 42-yard pass from Alante Brown to Montorie Foster Jr. in the second quarter, a 28-yard pass from Houser to Tyrell Henry early in the third quarter, and a 25-yard touchdown pass from Sam Leavitt to Foster early in the fourth quarter. All four big plays led to MSU’s scores in the game, including Foster’s touchdown grab that put the Spartans up 20-10.
Haarberg, who managed 37 yards on 14 carries on the day with one touchdown despite being sacked seven times, answered with a big play of his own, a 43-yard fourth-quarter run that set up a four-yard Emmett Johnson touchdown with 3:35 left to cut MSU’s lead to 20-17. Johnson led Nebraska with 57 yards on 13 carries on the day.
Michigan State missed a field goal attempt with less than a minute remaining, and Nebraska took over with 43 seconds left at its own 27 needing a field goal to send the game to overtime. Haarberg opened the drive with a nine-yard completion to Malachi Coleman before a 10-yard defensive holding penalty put the Huskers near midfield with 19 second left.
Haarberg’s next pass attempt was knocked out of his hand as his arm moved forward, but the play was ruled a fumble on the field. With Nebraska out of timeouts, the clock kept running and one last pass attempt fell incomplete as time expired, ending Nebraska’s three-game winning streak.
Tight end Thomas Fidone led the Huskers with three receptions for 43 yards, while Alex Bullock added three catches for 37 yards. Coleman contributed a pair of catches for 39 yards.
Luke Reimer led the Blackshirts with seven tackles, while Isaac Gifford, Nick Henrich, Jibari Butler and Javin Wright all added five stops apiece.
Houser’s 46-yard pass to Franklin on Michigan State’s fourth offensive play set up Jonathan Kim’s 35-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead just over three minutes into the game. Houser finished the day 13-of-20 for 165 passing yards with one touchdown.
The MSU lead held until early in the second quarter when Haarberg ran into the end zone untouched from five yards out with 12:40 left in the half to give Nebraska a 7-3 lead.
Michigan State answered with Houser’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Christian Fitzpatrick just over three minutes later. The key play on the drive was Brown’s 42-yard pass to Foster, after an initial lateral from Houser to Brown.
The Spartans led 10-7 until Tristan Alvano tied the score with his 24-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the half. Alvano’s field goal capped a 12-play, 74-yard drive that consumed 4:56 and sent the two teams to the halftime locker room tied at 10.
Nebraska opened the second half with the ball but had its drive stall near midfield. MSU took over at its own 14 and began its drive with Houser’s 28-yard pass to Henry. The big play sparked a 12-play, 53-yard drive that ate up 6:24 on the clock and resulted in Kim’s 50-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 13-10 lead heading to the final quarter.
The Huskers return home to Memorial Stadium next Saturday to take on Maryland. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. (CST) with live television coverage from Peacock.