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Huskers stun No. 7 Michigan St. in 39-38 upset

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At some point, the law of averages had to work back in Nebraska's favor eventually. They finally did so in epic fashion on Saturday.
Trailing by five points with less than a minute to play, quarterback Tommy Armstrong connected with Brandon Reilly for a 30-yard touchdown pass for what would be the game-winning score in a 39-38 upset of No. 7 Michigan State in front of a season-high Memorial Stadium crowd of 90,094.
In a season full of heartbreak for the Huskers, who improved to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in Big Ten play, the victory turned the tide and kept their bowl game hopes alive and well.
Michigan State got rolling right of the bat with a 43-yard run by Gerald Holmes on the second play from scrimmage to quickly move into Nebraska territory. But facing a fourth-and-one from the NU 23, LC Scott was stuffed for a two-yard loss to end the threat with a turnover on downs.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, the Huskers got on the board first with a 44-yard field goal by Drew Brown with just over seven minutes left on the first quarter. Nebraska would then extend that lead with an impressive touchdown drive that featured a 22-yard pass to Reilly, a two-yard run by Imani Cross to convert a fourth-and-one, and then a 38-yard scoring toss to Jordan Westerkamp.
The Spartans' offense was finally able to answer on its ensuing drive, though, as a 25-yard run by Holmes and a pass interference call against Byerson Cockrell set up Michael Geiger for a 46-yard field goal that made it 10-3 going into the second quarter. Michigan State would then tie the game up on a 34-yard touchdown pass to Macgarrett Kings with 11:34 left in the half.
Stanley Morgan returned the following kickoff 32 yards and another 15 were added on by a facemask penalty on MSU that started the drive on the NU 48. A 12-yard run by Andy Janovich and a 13-yard run by Alonzo Moore moved the ball deep into Spartan territory, but the drive came to a screeching halt when Armstrong was picked off by Demetrious Cox at the 29.
Needing a response, cornerback Jonathan Rose came up big by answering with an interception of his own, marking just Cook's third thrown pick of the season. A pair of 17-yard runs by Armstrong and Reilly helped set up Brown for his second field goal of the night, this time from 43 yards, to put the Huskers back on top 13-10 with 4:21 to go before halftime.
The Huskers had MSU right where they wanted them on the next possession after an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the Spartans back into a second-and-24 at the NU 48. But Nebraska came with a blitz and Cook took advantage by hitting Aaron Burbridge on a 29-yard pass up the middle for a first down. Three plays later, Cook found Kings in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass that sent the Spartans into halftime up 17-13.
Nebraska couldn't have started the second half much better, as it came right at Michigan State with a power running game and quickly moved the ball past midfield. With the Spartans loading up to stop the run, Armstrong took advantage with a 43-yard bomb deep down the middle to Moore that set up first and goal at the MSU one. Cross barreled into the end zone on the very next play to give NU back the lead at 20-17.
That momentum didn't last very long, though, as Cook came right back led a six-play, 84-yard scoring drive capped off with a 33-yard touchdown strike to Burbridge that made it 24-20 with 9:13 remaining in the third quarter. The pass was Cook's 67th career touchdown toss, setting a MSU school record.
A solid return by Morgan and a personal foul on Michigan State started Nebraska's ensuing drive on its own 41, and an impressive catch from Reilly over a Spartan defender gave the Huskers first-and-goal at the four. Rather than continue to pound the ball on the ground, NU called two consecutive passes - the first a three-yard loss to Westerkamp and the second an interception at the goal line by Riley Bullough.
Michigan State's offense would take it from there, marching 10 plays for 83 yards and scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Cook to tight end Jamal Lyles to go up 31-20.
The Huskers caught a break when the following kickoff bounced out of bounds to start the drive at the NU 35, and the offense stuck to the ground game and put together a 10-play touchdown drive of their own, with Armstrong rushing in from two yards out for the score. The Huskers missed the two-point conversion try, leaving the score at 31-26 with just over 13 minutes to play.
The Blackshirts had to come up with a stop, but Cook was just too good, coming up with clutch play after clutch play to not only grind the clock down nearly nine minutes on a 16-play drive, but also push MSU's lead back up to 38-26 with one-yard touchdown run by Holmes with 4:16 remaining.
Nebraska drove down to the MSU two with 2:30 to go, but couldn't punch the ball into the end zone until another 43 seconds had milked off the clock to leave the Huskers down 38-33 with 1:47 left. Michigan State recovered the onside kick at the NU 44, but Nebraska was able to force a punt to get the ball back at its own nine with 55 seconds left to play.
Armstrong found Westerkamp for a 28-yard gain on the first play, and then hit him again for a 33-yard completion down to the Michigan State 30 with 37 seconds to go. The Spartans dropped an interception in the end zone that would have put the game away on the next play, and Armstrong took full advantage of his second chance.
Though Reilly went out of bounds on his route down the left sideline, the officials ruled he was forced out and re-established himself prior to making a 30-yard touchdown catch to put Nebraska up 39-38 with just 17 seconds remaining. The two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, leaving NU up by one.
A short kick was returned by the Spartans to their 42, and Cook found Kings over the middle for a 17-yard gain to the Nebraska 41. Cook's next pass sailed into the sidelines incomplete, and the clock read 0:00. There would be no additional second added this time around.
Nebraska will look to keep the good vibes going when they travel to take on Rutgers next week for their final road game of the regular season.
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