Instant takes: Michigan State 23, Nebraska 20
Here are some instant takes from Nebraska's 23-20 overtime loss to No. 20 Michigan State:
Nebraska's offensive line costing games
The Huskers’ offensive line is the biggest weakness of this team hands down.
Nebraska’s defense did everything they could to give the Huskers an early lead in the first quarter. But the offensive lines penalties and inability to protect quarterback Adrian Martinez spoiled each drive.
Safety Marquel Dismuke intercepted Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne in the first drive of the game, giving Thorne his first interception of the season.
Martinez was sacked on his first play of the game. Running back Rahmir Johnson rushed for no gain and then Martinez was forced out of the pocket on third down and took a big shot by MSU’s defense leaving him laying on the field.
NU linebacker JoJo Domann had a 5-yard tackle for loss on 4th-and-1 for a turnover on downs.
Backup quarterback Logan Smothers took over at the helm with Martinez injured in the locker room. Johnson had a huge 15-yard rush but the drive was killed by back-to-back false starts by right guard Matt Sichterman and center Cam Jurgens.
After the Huskers' defense forced a three-and-out, Martinez had a 10-yard pass to Samori Toure for a first down but was sacked on 3rd-and-8.
That ended the first quarter but not the mistakes of the offensive line.
Michigan State's defense had four sacks and five tackles for a loss of 19 yards in the first half.
In the first half, Martinez had 49 scramble yards of rushing on nine attempts, including a 45 yard run in the second quarter. It seemed like he was either pressured or forced out of the pocket on every single play.
Nebraska scored one touchdown in the first half. It was the first drive the offensive line didn't have a penalty or give up a sack.
Martinez was forced to scramble once and threw a 17-yard dime to wide receiver Zavier Betts. Other than that, the line basically did their job and it resulted in a touchdown.
The line didn't have a penalty in the second half but gave up three more sacks and six more tackles for loss.
Nebraska's offensive line has to get better. Every single game, they've had a terrible amount of false starts and given up too many quarterback pressures.
Head coach Scott Frost looked perplexed on the sideline at how these mistakes happen over and over again. I'm sure a lot of people can relate to that feeling.
While offensive line is weakness, defense is the strength
Just like you can count on the offensive line getting false starts, it seems you can also count on Nebraska's defense playing well enough to win games.
Dismuke's interception in the first two minutes of the game gave the offense a chance to set the tone of the entire game.
The Huskers' defense continued to make huge plays, just as they have done all season.
Domann had a tackle for the loss of five yards on 4th-and-1. Nebraska's defense forced a three-and-out on the following drive. Linebacker Garrett Nelson had a tackle for loss on third down in the red zone to force a field goal.
With six minutes left in the game and Nebraska leading 20-13, the defense made the most important stop of the season. With his offensive line closing in on him, Thorne threw an incompletion. Nelson blitzed him on the next play and battled down the pass. Deontre Thomas and Luke Reimer sacked Thorne for a three-and-out.
Over and over, the defense came up big to hold Michigan State's offense to 23 points.
One of the biggest keys to victory was for Nebraska to keep Kenneth Walker III in check and they did until a 23-yard run to get MSU to the Nebraska 2-yard line in overtime.
Walker, who averaged 164 yards per game before Saturday, had 61 yards on 19 attempts. He had 12 carries for 37 rushing yards in the first half.
Nebraska's defense held every single rusher in check, not just Walker. Michigan State rushed for a total of 71 yards.
The Spartan's offense didn't have a play over 10 yards during the entire second half. Nebraska's offense needs to capitalize on its defense's spectacular efforts and maybe it wouldn't be in an all too familiar position.
Another crushing loss
Nebraska has become all too accustomed to close losses.
Martinez threw an interception in overtime to spoil the Huskers' chances but this loss is not just on him.
NU's offense got the ball with six minutes remaining and a chance to march down the field and go up two scores. They couldn't get the first down.
Special teams, yet again, cost Nebraska a game giving up a 63-yard punt return for the Spartans to tie the game 20-20.
Again, Nebraska had a chance to score with 3:47 left in the game, another three-and-out.
The Huskers have to capitalize in big moments. The spread for this game was Michigan State by 4.5. Nebraska prepared for a close game all week and yet, when it came down to it, they did not execute.
NU's defense gave them one last shot but it was wasted on a sack and pour time management by the coaching staff.
Nebraska's offense played well and its defense played lights out until overtime.
This loss is not on one person but the entire team. A loss like this could weigh on a team.