Barret Pickering kicked three fourth-quarter field goals to help Nebraska erase a six-point deficit and walk away with a 9-6 victory over Michigan State in front of 88,793 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
Pickering had field goals of 36, 20 and 47 yards, the last coming with just more than five minutes to play. Nebraska (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten) managed just 248 total yards but took advantage of a late turnover to tie the game before kicking the winner on the next series.
Michigan State (6-5, 4-4) was effective running the ball at times but never made the big play when it needed it. Quarterback Rocky Lombardi was just 15-of-41 passing but the Spartans had several dropped passes.
Michigan State found some success on its opening drive of the game, marching 50 yards before the drive stalled out with two straight incomplete passes. Matt Coghlin kicked a 34-yard field goal with 7:46 left in the first quarter to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead.
Defense was the story from there as neither team could sustain a drive. The Michigan State defense made the most plays, getting two fourth-down stops while creating two turnovers. However, the Spartans’ offense couldn’t take advantage of either takeaway.
The second came when Jacub Panasiuk sacked Nebraska freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez, who fumbled the ball. It was picked up by Kenny Willekes at the Nebraska 21 early in the second quarter. But Michigan State couldn’t find the end zone and after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on tight end Matt Dotson pushed the ball back 15 yards, Coghlin’s 41-yard field-goal attempt hit the left upright.
Michigan State added to its lead with 12:13 to play in the fourth quarter when Coghlin kicked a 26-yard field goal after the Spartans again failed to reach the end zone. Lombardi scrambled on second down from inside the Nebraska 15, but Dotson dropped the pass in the end zone.
Nebraska responded, taking advantage of Michigan State’s fifth unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to move deep into Spartans territory. However, the MSU defense came up with another stop and forced Nebraska to kick a 36-yard field goal from Pickering. It cut Michigan State’s lead to 6-3 with 11:07 to play.
The Cornhuskers then came up with a big defensive play as safety Antonio Reed sacked Lombardi and forced a fumble that was recovered by Damion Daniels at the Michigan State 20. After the Huskers picked up a first down, the Spartans’ defense held again and forced a 20-yard field goal from Pickering to tie the game, 6-6, with 8:07 left in the game.
Nebraska forced a three-and-out and moved back into position to take its first lead, getting a 47-yard field goal from Pickering to take a 9-6 lead with 5:13 to play.
Michigan State had a chance to tie or take the lead, but its final drive ended in Nebraska territory when it failed to convert on fourth-and-4.
—Field Level Media