LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska dropped from contention in the Big Ten Legends Division race with a 41-28 loss to Michigan State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Here’s what we learned:
1. The Huskers can’t get out of their own way. The turnover problems of past seasons began to emerge in October. But nothing suggested Nebraska would fall apart like this. The Huskers fumbled on their third offensive play. Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw an interception on the sixth play. When it was over, Nebraska committed five turnovers, moving to minus-13 over its past five games -- dead last among 126 FBS teams. All five turnovers on Saturday occurred in Nebraska territory, including three inside the 25-yard line.
2. The injury problems aren’t going away: Nebraska’s offensive line remains a mess. On Saturday, only right tackle Jeremiah Sirles started at his normal position. And Sirles, hurt last week against Michigan, sat out the second half. Otherwise, we saw tackle Andrew Rodriguez at guard, center Cole Pensick at center and backup Mark Pelini in the middle. Brent Qvale started at left tackle for the second straight week. Mike Moudy and Jake Cotton missed the game in addition to Spencer Long, who’s out for the year. Quarterback Taylor Martinez and receiver Jamal Turner sat out again.
3. Nebraska’s special teams still aren’t special: As if the turnovers weren’t bad enough, Michigan State decisively won the kicking game. The Huskers’ return game is non-existent. Jordan Westerkamp muffed another punt. His first-quarter gaffe gave Michigan State possession at the Nebraska 8-yard line, leading to a touchdown. In coverage, the Huskers allowed a 26-yard punt return to Macgarrett Kings Jr. and were flagged for a kick-catch interference penalty. Additionally, Michigan State’s game-icing touchdown came after the Spartans executed a fake field goal as punter Mike Sadler followed a blocker through the middle of the Nebraska line on a fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter.