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Michigan State 41, Nebraska 28: Kneejerk Reactions

Quick thoughts after the Spartans clinched a share of the division title in Lincoln.

Eric Francis

1) Now we are so happy ...

2) The division title is within our grasp.

All we need now is a win in either of our last two games or a Minnesota loss to Wisconsin, and we'll get a shot at (most likely) Ohio State for a trip to the 100th Rose Bowl.

3) The defense looked mortal but made some huge plays as well.

Nebraska set season highs for yards (392), rush yards (182 - more than double the previous high), and points (28, tied with Indiana) against the MSU defense, but five turnovers in Nebraska territory set up 24 of MSU's 41 points on the day. The first three Nebraska touchdowns all came from 30+ yards out; the fourth in the final seconds of the game occurred with the defense set to force Nebraska to eat clock.

4) We wondered whether we'd get Good Connor Cook or Bad Connor Cook. We got both.

Cook's passing stats, split by quarter:

1st and 3rd quarters: 5/17, 49 yards, 1/7 on third down (did get the first down on that one)
2nd and 4th quarters: 10/14, 144 yards, 1 TD, 7/8 on third down for the TD and five more first downs (the one completion short of the first down set up the fake FG)

In the even quarters, when the down marker hit "3", Cook was lights out, putting passes in very tight windows and keeping the chains moving. The rest of the game was not so good.

5) Jeremy Langford eventually wore down the Nebraska defense.

Removing sacks from the total, nobody else got more than four carries for MSU (Cook had four for 16 yards, sacked twice for -17). Langford went for 151 yards on 32 carries and found the end zone three times, including the clinching touchdown from 37 yards out.

6) Special teams had another excellent day.

One turnover was forced on a fumbled punt, and Mike Sadler dropped three others inside the 10 yard line. Michael Geiger hit twice, including one from 45 yards, and Mark Dantonio reached into the bag of tricks for another fake field goal, this one aptly called "Charlie Brown":

7) 6-0 in conference, none by less than 12 points.

Northwestern awaits. Win there and we're playing in Indianapolis with a trip to Pasadena on the line.