Saturday, October 23, 2021

FINAL: MSU outlasts Nebraska in overtime to win 23-20

September 25, 2021
<p>Michigan State&#x27;s redshirt junior wide receiver Jayden Reed (1) runs the ball towards the endzone on Sept. 25, 2021.</p>

Michigan State's redshirt junior wide receiver Jayden Reed (1) runs the ball towards the endzone on Sept. 25, 2021.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Sixty minutes was not enough to determine a winner tonight in East Lansing.

Michigan State was able to outlast Nebraska 23-20 in overtime after a back-and-forth defensive battle that required late game heroics for the Spartans.

Chester Kimbrough, the transfer cornerback from Florida, intercepted junior quarterback Adrian Martinez on the first possession of overtime, setting up the Michigan State offense to win the game with any score. Graduate student kicker Matt Coghlin hit the 21-yard field goal after being set up by a junior running back Kenneth Walker III-run to the 2-yard line to make the kick as easy as possible.

MSU was able to escape the game with a win after playing its worst half of football in the second half with five three-and-outs on five possessions.

Michigan State’s offense that averaged over 39 points a game coming into tonight was held to 23 points and 254 yards. The rhythm was not there from the opening kick for Payton Thorne, who struggled to move the ball all night.

Michigan State’s defense was up to the task and stopped Martinez and the Cornhusker's offense for most of the night, creating a low-scoring duel between the two defenses.

Michigan State and Nebraska traded blows throughout the first half, with Michigan State taking a narrow 13-10 lead into the locker room. The teams passed possessions back and forth on their way to a scoreless first quarter. The beginning of the game was dominated by the defensive lines, which did not let either team get any offense going early.

The first points of the game came early in the second quarter when Thorne found redshirt junior Jayden Reed for a 35-yard score on another flea-flicker, their second connection for a score on the trick play this season.

Nebraska did not wilt after the first strike from the Spartans. The Cornhuskers drove down the field on the back of a 45-yard scramble from Martinez to add a field goal for its first points, showing that they were ready to fight after the lackluster start.

The second quarter was everything that the first quarter wasn’t. After a quarter with four punts, an interception and a turnover on downs, the Spartans and Cornhuskers scored on five of the seven possessions in the second quarter to bring the score to 13-10 MSU going into the half.

The war of attrition started upfront with both team’s defensive lines controlling the point of attack. Michigan State had 218 yards in the first half, with only 47 rushing yards. Walker was kept in check early, running for 37 yards on 11 carries in the first half.

On the other side of the ball, Nebraska did its damage on the ground, running for 122 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Martinez led the attack with 49 yards and the score by extending plays with his legs and exploiting MSU’s man coverage with back-breaking scrambles.

The dogfight continued into the second half. Nebraska added a field goal to tie the game at 13 on the opening possession, marching down the field before being turned away at the Spartans’ 10-yard line again. The score remained tied at 13 for the remainder of the quarter as Nebraska controlled the clock.

Michigan State got the ball twice in the quarter, going three-and-out on both possessions. Nebraska ran 28 plays in the third quarter compared to Michigan State’s 6 and held the ball for nearly 12 minutes.

The momentum flipped on its head to start the 4th. Redshirt senior defensive end Jacub Panasiuk beat the left tackle and stripped Martinez and sophomore defensive end Jeff Pietrowski pounced on the ball to give MSU the ball back in Nebraska territory to start the final quarter.

The turnover was not the spark needed for the offense, who went three-and-out again to give the ball back to the Cornhuskers. Martinez and company responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with another Martinez rushing touchdown to take a 20-13 lead.

Thorne and MSU still could not figure out the Cornhusker defense and could not move the ball to find the needed equalizer. The tying score came from the special teams on a punt return from Reed with 3:47 left in the game. It was MSU’s first punt return for a touchdown since former wide receiver Keyshawn Martin did it against Minnesota in 2011.

The score forced overtime after both offenses floundered once again in the final moments of the fourth quarter, where MSU was able to outlast the Cornhuskers and move to 4-0 on the season.

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