Friday, December 1, 2023

Preview: MSU Football hosts Nebraska in final game at Spartan Stadium this season

November 2, 2023
<p>Michigan State&#x27;s redshirt senior running back Connor Heyward (11) jumps over Nebraska&#x27;s senior safety Marquel Dismuke (9) on Sept. 25, 2021.</p>

Michigan State's redshirt senior running back Connor Heyward (11) jumps over Nebraska's senior safety Marquel Dismuke (9) on Sept. 25, 2021.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

The Michigan State football team returns home to Spartan Stadium for the last time this season as the Spartans are set to face Nebraska on Saturday.

Nothing has been going right this season for MSU, as they just dropped their sixth straight game to Minnesota, losing 27-12. The Spartans have put up as much of a fight as possible for their circumstances as they look to give their fans and players a celebration on Senior Day.

There are still questions to be answered for Michigan State. Interim head coach Harlon Barnett said that he continues to evaluate the quarterback position as another new potential starter looms. Redshirt freshman quarterback Katin Houser has gotten the start under center for the past three games, throwing for just 351 yards and two touchdowns to one interception in that span. Houser has stepped in and showed promise in the absence of redshirt junior quarterback Noah Kim, but the struggles to move the ball downfield has raised concern resulting in calls for a change from the Spartan faithful once again.  

Freshman quarterback Sam Leavitt has seen some playing time, especially in the past two contests. Leavitt proved he was composed during his first bits of action. Against Minnesota, he threw for 73 yards to go along with a touchdown and an interception. A crucial part of Leavitt’s performance however, was his threat with his legs. The Spartans were able to move down the field creatively thanks to six rushes for 52 yards from Leavitt

Barnett mentioned during his weekly press conferences on Monday that the position is still in competition mode, and they will make a further decision later in the week.

Nebraska hasn’t been the most efficient on offense as of late either, as a lot of their success comes from defensive resilience. The Cornhuskers have put up 75 points in their last four games, but the defensive impact makes up for it.

The Cornhuskers have generated 25 sacks as a team, and forced seven interceptions to go along with that. Nebraska has also generated five forced fumbles. Based on the lack of success MSU has had as of late moving the ball, Nebraska will look to continue to feast and possibly generate more turnovers to look to get ahead early. 

Another reason the offense has stalled for Michigan State has come from the run game. Redshirt sophomore running back Nate Carter started the 2023 season on fire, rushing for 477 yards in his first five games. Since then, in the past three matchups, Carter has only rushed for 132 yards on 48 carries, averaging out to just 2.75 yards per carry.

Since the quarterback change, the rest of the offense has struggled as well, and the Spartans will look to fix that with Nebraska coming to town.

The Cornhuskers will try to get their offense rolling once again as well against a rather young MSU defense. Nebraska sophomore quarterback Heinrich Haarberg leads the team in passing with 838 passing yards. His threat comes on the ground though, as Haarberg has 446 rushing yards, which also leads the team

Michigan State has played fairly well against quarterbacks who evade the pocket, forcing them to throw and pick them a part. When quarterbacks have thrown heavily though, that is where the Spartans have struggled. It will be noteworthy to see if Nebraska allows Haarberg to use the capabilities of his arm to his advantage with that being said. 

The Spartans are 3-9 against Nebraska in the history of their matchups. MSU did take the last contest, winning 23-20 in overtime back in 2021.

Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. on FS1 on Saturday.

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