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Official Husker Locker Blog

2011 Oct 31

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Michigan State

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By HuskerLocker

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By Erin Sorensen

Few could have predicted the outcome of Saturday’s game against Michigan State. Nebraska proved the doubters wrong by beating the Spartans 24-3 in front of a crowd that was loud and on its feet for most of the game. It was a big moment for Nebraska. Did the fans see what they were watching for?

1. Confidence from Taylor Martinez

Quarterback Taylor Martinez’s performance on Saturday was not perfect, but it was filled with confidence. In past games, an interception meant a meltdown for Martinez. On Saturday, he lobbed the football to wide receiver Kenny Bell, only to have it picked off. What happened after that was essential to Martinez’s growth.

Martinez didn’t stop playing. The quarterback worked in tandem with workhorse Rex Burkhead, creating offensive momentum that wore the Michigan State defense down quickly. In fact, the Spartan defenders began to fake injuries in an attempt to slow the Huskers down, but Martinez was on a roll.

Again, it wasn’t a perfect showing, but it was a promising one. Fans got a chance to see that while Martinez may still struggle, he’s starting to figure everything out.

2. Continued Growth on the Offensive Line

In order for the Martinez-Burkhead combination to be successful, it all starts with the big guys up front. Through the season so far, this group of men has become more and more consistent both as individuals and as a unit.

Led proudly by senior Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick, this group has found its swagger and shows no signs of losing it. The holes that were open against Minnesota shrunk for the Spartans. Defenders got to Martinez much less than in previous showings.

3. More Stability in the Secondary

If Nebraska’s matchup against Michigan State showed anything Saturday, it is that the secondary still has life. While the effort put forth against Minnesota was a positive sign, fans were still unsure of what they would see against a far better Michigan State team.

With a rushing offense statistically worse than the Golden Gophers’, Husker fans knew the Spartans would want to put the ball in the air. What Michigan State wasn’t expecting was the Husker secondary to be ready to play.

Quite possibly the biggest moment of Saturday’s game was when senior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard switched into “beast mode.” Nebraska fans knew he had it in him, but coming off of an injury early in the season, it took the senior a little longer to find his groove. Whatever switched on for him, Dennard made a statement to the Big Ten: He’s back.

4. Team Composure

Despite attempts to overhype this game, Nebraska kept its calm on Saturday. In fact, it was eerily similar to last year’s game against Missouri. The Tigers had just come off a big win over No. 1 Oklahoma. This time, Nebraska didn’t even let the opposing team score a touchdown.

The game featured a complete 180-degree turnaround by a team that had a nationally-televised meltdown against Wisconsin only a few weeks before. When confident, this team makes good things happen.

Michigan State wasn’t given many opportunities to score, and when they were, Nebraska’s defense shut them down. While the Spartans made their own fair share of mistakes that the Huskers benefitted from, it was the overall composure of the team that made the win so impressive.

5. A “B1G” Win

By the time Nebraska took the victory formation on Saturday, the Huskers had accomplished something huge both for the team and the season.

It was a big moment for Nebraska fans that have spent years waiting to be back in the top tier of college football. Sunday night, that wish came true as Nebraska moved into the top ten teams of the BCS rankings.

The Huskers will still need to win out to ensure a trip to Indianapolis, but the odds are good. Michigan and Penn State will still be challenging, but Nebraska sent a strong message to the Big Ten on Saturday - They are here and ready to play.

If fans can take anything from the clash with the Spartans, it is that their team has a lot of passion and drive to win. Stating that the loss to Wisconsin has brought them closer, the Cornhuskers set themselves up to make a strong run to win the Legends division. Will fans see the Huskers make the trip to Indianapolis? Only time will tell.

Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, kenny bell, yoshi hardrick, alfonzo dennard, michigan state

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