Lincoln – Freshman Barret Pickering kicked three fourth-quarter field goals, including the game-winner with 5:13 remaining, and the Nebraska football team rallied for a 9-6 victory over Michigan State on Senior Day at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten Conference) closed its home season by winning its final four home games, and won a football game without scoring a touchdown for the first time since 1937, a 3-0 victory over Kansas State. Senior running back Devine Ozigbo ran 18 times for 74 yards and surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the season. Ozigbo is the first Husker to have a 1,000-yard rushing season since Ameer Abdullah in 2014.
Nebraska, facing the Big Ten Conference’s No. 1 rushing defense, finished with 103 rushing yards, including enough on its final series to run out the clock. Michigan State entered game the game allowed 76 rushing yards per game.
Nebraska held Michigan State (6-5, 4-4) to 289 yards of total offense, and limited redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi to 15-of-41 passing for 146 yards. Senior safety Antonio Reed had seven tackles, including three for loss, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and an interception.
Nebraska trailed 6-0 when a 19-yard kickoff return by freshman running back Maurice Washington and an ensuing personal foul penalty on Michigan State gave Nebraska the ball at its 45-yard line to begin its first scoring drive.
Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez, who finished 16-of-37 passing for 145 yards, hit senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. for a 35-yard passing play to the Michigan State 20-yard line. Morgan caught four passes for 67 yards and became Nebraska’s all-time receptions leader with 182 career catches.
But the Huskers gained only 1 yard on their next three plays, all passes, setting up fourth-and-9. Pickering picked up the Huskers by making a 36-yard field goal, cutting the Michigan State lead to 6-3 with 11:07 remaining.
The Blackshirts came up huge on the Spartans’ ensuing series. Reed sacked Lombardi and forced a fumble that redshirted freshman defensive lineman Damion Daniels recovered at the Michigan State 20.
A 15-yard run by Ozigbo set the Huskers up first-and-goal, but Nebraska was unable to find the end zone and settled for Pickering’s 20-yard field goal. That tied the game, 6-6, with 8:07 remaining.
Reed then broke up a third-down pass on Michigan State’s next series, forcing a punt that gave Nebraska possession at their 47-yard line with 7:12 remaining. That set up Pickering’s 47-yard attempt to put Nebraska ahead for good.
Nebraska’s defense then withheld two Michigan State drives into Nebraska territory, the last one ending in an incomplete fourth-down pass.
Lombardi’s longest play was a 36-yard pass to running back Connor Heyward to the Nebraska 38-yard line on the Spartans’ second scoring drive of the game, in the third quarter.
Then on third-and-long, Lombardi hit wide receiver Darrell Stewart for an 11-yard gain to the 10-yard line. But the Blackshirts rose up held the Spartans out of the end zone, and Matt Coughlin hit a 26-yard field goal with 12:13 remaining in the game to extend Michigan State’s lead 6-0.
Michigan State led 3-0 at halftime.
To begin the game, Nebraska received the opening kickoff and gained one first down before punting. That ended a streak of six straight games in which the Huskers had scored a touchdown on their opening possession when receiving the ball to start the game.
Michigan State gained 50 yards on its first possession, with Heyward busting a 27-yard run up the middle to get the Spartans into Nebraska territory. They advanced to the 16 before senior safety Trey Neal stopped Heyward for no gain and senior linebacker Luke Gifford forced Lombardi into a third-down incompletion.
That set up a 34-yard field goal by Coughlin that gave Michigan State a 3-0 lead with 7:46 remaining in the first quarter.
Michigan State recovered its second fumble of the game with 13:49 in the second quarter and started at the 21 yard-line. But Nebraska’s defense stiffened and pushed the Spartans backward, and Coughlin’s 41-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright with 10:58 remaining before halftime.
The Huskers drove from their 23-yard line to the Michigan State 33, but Martinez’s fourth-down pass with the wind sailed too high to an open Morgan with 6:54 remaining and fell incomplete to end the drive. Michigan State’s final drive of the first half ended when Reed intercepted a Hail Mary pass at the 1-yard line with 3 seconds remaining before halftime. Nebraska closes the season Friday at Iowa. The game is scheduled for 11 AM on FOX.