Huskers' upset falls just short in 32-29 loss to No. 9 Michigan
For a moment, it looked as if it was finally going to be Nebraska’s night.
Instead, the Huskers were delivered with yet another crushing blow in a 32-29 loss to No. 9 Michigan on Saturday night in Memorial Stadium.
After trailing 13-0 at halftime, NU took a three-point lead with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and was in a prime position to pull off the most significant win of the Scott Frost era.
Instead, the Wolverines tied it up with a field goal, and then NU quarterback Adrian Martinez fumbled to set Michigan up for the go-ahead kick with 1:24 to play. With one last chance to tie or win the game, Nebraska’s night ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down.
As a result, Michigan improved to 6-0 while the Huskers fell to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in Big Ten play.
There wasn’t much pretty about a first half that seemingly saw more official replay reviews than actual game action, but Nebraska’s first play from scrimmage was a highlight.
Martinez hit Rahmir Johnson on a beautifully designed screen pass down the left side that went 43 yards down to the Michigan 39. The Huskers then converted a fourth-and-six with a 24-yard pass to Omar Manning down to the 11.
But facing a third-and-goal from the two, Martinez was stuffed on two straight runs for a turnover on downs to end the drive without any points.
Defense dominated the rest of the first quarter, and it wasn’t until Michigan kicker Jake Moody hit a 35-yard field goal with 9:52 left in the second that the game saw its first points.
The Wolverines then capitalized when a potential fourth-and-1 near midfield was changed to a first down after review, and then Cade McNamara hit Mike Sainristil for a 48-yard pass down to the NU 6.
But the Blackshirts kept it a one-score game when two Hassan Haskins touchdowns were taken off the board after review, and Michigan had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Moody to make it 6-0 with 3:19 left in the half.
The Wolverines got one last chance to add to their lead before halftime when they took over at their 24 with 1:40 remaining. McNamara dinked and dunked down the field for an 11-play, 76-yard drive aided by a baffling pass interference call on JoJo Domann near the goal line.
Rather than it being third-and-10 and the NU 15 with 13 seconds left, Michigan got a first-and-goal from the three, and Haskins barreled his way into the end zone to make it 13-0 going into the break.
Needing to find some life on offense, Nebraska got a spark on a 20-yard scramble by Martinez to convert a third-and-11 on the opening drive of the third quarter. On the very next play, Martinez hit a wide-open Austin Allen over the top for a 46-yard touchdown.
In the first half, the Huskers had 133 yards of total offense, including 55 after the opening drive. They went 75 yards in six plays on their scoring drive.
But Michigan wasted no timing answering right back. The Wolverines converted five first downs, including a 35-yard pass to Daylen Baldwin, and scored on a three-yard touchdown run by Haskins. A two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, leaving UM’s lead at 19-7 with 3:36 to go in the third.
Nebraska’s offense kept things rolling on its next possession, though, and Martinez delivered a perfect ball to Johnson down the right sideline for a 41-yard touchdown to bring the deficit back to 19-14 going into the fourth quarter.
Then it was the defense’s turn to make a play, as Deontai Williams jumped a McNamara pass for an interception at the UM 33 and returned it 20 yards to the 13. That marked just Michigan’s second turnover of the season and its first thrown interception.
Martinez needed one play to hit receiver Levi Falck on a misdirection route out of the backfield for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Huskers their first lead. Nebraska opted to go for two, and Martinez took it himself to put NU up 22-19 with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
Just when it seemed as if Nebraska had claimed all of the game’s momentum, the Wolverines responded with a 10-play, 75-yard march and took back the lead on a 29-yard touchdown run by Blake Corum. That made it 26-22 Wolverines with 11:21 to play.
Nebraska once again needed to answer, and it did just that. Oliver Martin hauled in a tipped pass that looked like it would be an interception and turned it into a 30-yard gain into UM territory. Rahmir Johnson then reeled off a 24-yard run, and Martinez capped it off with a five-yard touchdown keeper to put NU back up 29-26 with 7:08 remaining.
The momentum swung again two plays later, though, as Haskins broke free on a 50-yard run to the NU 25. But the Blackshirts held firm and forced Michigan to a 31-yard field goal by Moody to tie it up with 3:00 on the clock.
Nebraska converted a third down early in its next drive, but Martinez was stripped of the ball at the end of the run, and Michigan recovered and returned it 19 yards to the Husker 18-yard line. The Blackshirts made the most of the situation and held the Wolverines to a 39-yard field goal by Moody.
That left the Huskers with 1:24 and no timeouts to tie or win the game starting at its own 25. On the first play, Martinez hit Samori Toure on a 25-yard pass to midfield, but three plays later, Nebraska was faced with a game-deciding fourth-and-10.
Martinez heaved down the right sideline to Toure, but the pass fell incomplete to seal the defeat.
Nebraska will return to action next week when it travels to take on Minnesota for an 11 a.m. CT kick on ESPN2.