Saturday, 7 November 2015

Michigan State stunned at Nebraska with controversial TD in final minute

 Michigan State's undefeated season and 12-game winning streak came to an abrupt end on Saturday night, as Nebraska pulled off a stunning 39-38 upset in the final minute.

The No. 6-ranked Spartans (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in somewhat controversial fashion, as Brandon Reilly's 30-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. with 17 seconds left was reviewed before being upheld.

The ruling on the field was that Reilly was forced out of bounds by MSU cornerback Jermaine Edmondson before coming back inbounds to catch the touchdown pass.

The Spartans close the season with games against Maryland next Saturday, at East Division leader Ohio State on Nov. 21 and at home against Penn State on Nov. 28.

MSU is still in control of its own destiny in terms of winning the Big Ten championship.

The College Football Playoff committee rankings on Dec. 6 will determine the four teams that qualify to compete for the national championship. Michigan State was No. 7 in the initial CFP rankings that came out last week, before Saturday's loss.

The Cornhuskers (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) drove 91 yards in four plays to get the winning score before a season-high crowd of 90,094 at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska getting its 17th-straight night game home victory.

Michigan State lost a Big Ten road game for the first time since 2012, a streak that had reached 12 games.

MSU quarterback Connor Cook was 23-of-37 passing for 335 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. But Cook threw incomplete from the Nebraska 42-yard line as time expired, ending Michigan State's last-ditch effort to fend off the upset.

The Spartans appeared to ice the game when Gerald Holmes capped off his first career start with a 1-yard touchdown run to end a 16-play, 75-yard drive that took 8:50 off the clock and made it 38-26 Michigan State with 4:16 left in the game.

Armstrong Jr. scored on a 1-yard TD run with 1:47 left to make it 38-33. But when MSU's Demetrious Cox recovered the ensuing onside kick, it appeared Nebraska's hopes were dashed.

The Spartans were unable to get a first down, however, and the Huskers got the ball back at their own 9-yard line with 55 seconds left.

Armstrong hit Jordan Westerkamp for 28 yards on first down to the Nebraska 37. The two hooked up again for a 33-yard gain to the MSU 30 on the next play.

Spartans' cornerback Arjen Colquhoun nearly intercepted an Armstrong pass on the next play in the end zone. The incompletion stopped the clock with 23 seconds left.

On the next play, Armstrong found Reilly open down the sideline for the winning score.

MSU spent most of the first half against Nebraska looking a lot like a team that couldn't find its timing after a bye week. The Spartans trailed after one quarter for the first time all season, 10-3, before coming back to lead 17-13 at the half.


-- Macgarrett Kings Jr. scored the first of his two TDs with 11:25 left in the second quarter, turning a shallow cross into a 34-yard score when he cutback sharply and outraced the Nebraska defense into the end zone to tie the game at 10-10.

-- R.J. Shelton made a leaping catch despite tight coverage, gaining 23 yards to convert on a third-and-11 at the Cornhuskers' 28. It set up MSU's final touchdown.

-- MSU converted a pivotal third-and-8 when a Cook pass deflected off Kings Jr.'s hands and was caught 10 yards further down the field by Burbridge. MSU scored on the drive to tie the game at 10-10.


-- Cook was intercepted on what appeared to be an underthrown pass in the second quarter. Nebraska converted the turnover into a go-ahead field goal that gave the Huskers a 13-10 lead.

-- Jordan Westerkamp beat Demetrious Cox for a 38-yard touchdown pass, even though Cox was also flagged for holding on the play.

-- MSU was late getting an 11th defender on the field, confused with its substitution pattern. That contributed to an alignment issue that enabled Tommy Armstrong to run the ball in for a 2-yard TD on third-and-goal in the fourth quarter.


-- True freshman Tyson Smith made his first career start at cornerback. It was the sixth different secondary combination MSU has started this season.

-- Gerald Holmes had his first-career 100-yard rushing effort, finishing with 115 yards on 20 carries, including a career-long 43-yard run.

-- Junior tight end Jamal Lyles scored his first career touchdown when Cook hit him with a 16-yard TD pass in the third quarter.

-- Defensive tackle Joel Heath left the game with 14:43 left in the third quarter with an apparent right ankle injury.

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