Nebraska survived. That’s all that needs to be said right now.
The Cornhuskers rallied from a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit to win their second consecutive road game against a Legends Division opponent. Three games ago it was against Northwestern. Saturday, it was a 28-24 win at Michigan State.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Turner with six seconds left to provide the final margin. It was a win that bordered or miraculous, both from Martinez’s efforts and the favorable calls the Cornhuskers received.
With Nebraska down 24-14, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard intercepted a Martinez pass and returned it for a touchdown. But the play was called back because of a personal foul penalty on Johnny Adams. On the Cornhuskers’ final drive, Dennard was hit with a questionable pass interference when Nebraska faced third-and-10 on the Spartans’ 20.
Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi vented about both calls in his post-game news conference. He was most upset by Dennard’s touchdown getting called back.
“Talk about taking it out of the kid’s hands and putting it into someone else’s,” Narduzzi said. “It was a heck of a return by Darqueze. We said we were going to score (Saturday), and we thought we did. We got late flags 25 yards from the ball. We will see it. I don’t know what the problem was, but I guess you are not allowed to block on defense.”
Conversely, Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini thought his team “wasted some opportunities” with mistakes. Martinez was brilliant in winning his fourth Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award. He converted a 38-yard pass on fourth-and-1o to Kyler Reed on the final drive. He finished with 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns and passed for two more and 160 yards.
Martinez’s efforts produced another impressive road win to help maintain Nebraska its spot as the Legends Division favorite. With three games remaining, Nebraska and Michigan are tied atop the Legends with 4-1 league records. With Nebraska’s 23-9 win last week, the Cornhuskers are the favorite to earn Big Ten title spot. Michigan’s schedule also is more challenging with games against Northwestern, Iowa and Ohio State, while Nebraska plays Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa. In short, even if Nebraska has a hiccup against Penn State, it’s almost likely Michigan will have one as well.
“We think we’re the best in the Big Ten; we’re not going to be stopped,” Turner said. “We’re going to keep going until we accomplish what we want to accomplish, and that’s the Big Ten championship.”
“Everybody here leads in a different type of way and the leadership and the character of this team goes far,” Nebraska safety P.J. Smith said. “We all have one goal and we won’t stop until we reach that goal and that’s the Big Ten Championship. (Saturday) we just kept fighting and never gave up and our coaching staff never gave up on us.”
Indiana put itself into a Leaders Division showdown with Wisconsin after a 24-21 win against Iowa. The Hoosiers’ rush defense held Iowa to 90 rushing yards after averaging 222.5 yards per game. Only UMass (78 yards) rushed for fewer yards against Indiana than Iowa.
The Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3) play host to Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2) on Saturday. Because Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) and Penn State (6-3, 4-1) are ineligible, the game likely will decide the divisional representative. Purdue and Illinois both are winless in Big Ten play.
If Indiana wins, not only does it have the tiebreaker, it has the easier schedule. Both teams play Penn State, but Wisconsin also plays Ohio State. Indiana finishes the season against Purdue.
“We’re just focused on Wisconsin right now, and we’re going to take this win (against Iowa) as a win,” Indiana defensive tackle Adam Replogle said.
STARS OF THE WEEK
Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer caught seven passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns against Iowa. … Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez ran for 205 yards, passed for 160, rushed for two touchdowns and threw for two. … Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier had 14 tackles, including two for loss, and a pass breakup. … Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell ran for 188 yards and two scores.
Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey intercepted a pass and returned it for his second touchdown this season. He also recovered a fumble. … Illinois’ Glenn Foster had three tackles for loss, including two sacks, against Ohio State. … Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns against Purdue. … Purdue’s Antavian Edison caught nine passes for 93 yards. … Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner completed 12-of-18 passes for 234 yards and two scores in his first start. … Minnesota punter Christian Eldred averaged 42.2 yards on his three punts and all three were placed inside the 20-yard line.
1. Ohio State (1) 10-0 6-0
2. Nebraska (3) 7-2 4-1
3. Penn State (2) 6-3 4-1
4. Michigan (4) 6-3 4-1
5. Northwestern (5) 7-2 3-2
6. Wisconsin (7) 6-3 3-2
7. Michigan State (6) 5-5 2-4
8. Indiana (10) 4-5 2-3
9. Minnesota (9) 5-4 1-4
10. Iowa (8) 4-5 2-4
12. Purdue (12) 3-6 0-5
12. Illinois (12) 2-7 0-5
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