Did somebody get the license plate number on that Nebraska running back?
Tailback Rex Burkhead ran over the Michigan State defense for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries, leading the Cornhuskers to a 24-3 victory over the Spartans in Lincoln. Burkhead also added a 27-yard touchdown catch in a dominant performance against a formidable MSU defensive unit.
The loss could turn out to be a key blow for Michigan State. Not only do the Spartans now fall into what could be a four-way tie at the top of the Big Ten’s Legends Division with a 3-1 record, but if MSU and Nebraska remain deadlocked, the Cornhuskers will win the tiebreaker based on head-to-head results. That’s certainly a disappointment after the Spartans’ biggest win of the season last week over Wisconsin.
Michigan State’s offense just could not establish itself against Nebraska’s defense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins struggled from the start, throwing an interception on the Spartans’ first possession that set Nebraska up to take an early 7-0 lead.
Overall, Cousins threw for 87 yards, completing 11 of 27 passes. Obviously, that is not the sort of performance the Spartans needed from their senior quarterback in what could be MSU’s toughest road test of the season. But the Nebraska pass rush had a lot to do with that, getting in Cousins’ face all day and sacking him four times.
Michigan State had some success in the running game, but neither of the Spartans’ tailbacks could establish themselves. Le’Veon Bell ran for 58 yards on 12 carries, while Edwin Baker added 38 yards on 10 rushes. Again, not nearly the sort of production MSU needed to possess the ball and help keep an explosive Nebraska offense off the field. Of course, the running game was largely abandoned once the Spartans fell further behind.
There are few games Michigan State could win with only 187 yards of total offense. Beating what could be one of the best teams in the Big Ten certainly isn’t going to happen with that lack of production.
As mentioned, MSU drops to 3-1 in conference play and is currently tied with Michigan and Nebraska for first in the Legends Division. Iowa could join them and create a four-way tie if the Hawkeyes defeat Minnesota on Saturday.
The Spartans host Minnesota next week and will likely right themselves against the Golden Gophers. That will set up a showdown the following week with the Hawkeyes in Iowa City that could create some separation in the Legends Division.