LINCOLN — Three fourth-quarter field goals by true freshman kicker Barret Pickering won Nebraska its fourth game of the year Saturday, toppling Michigan State 9-6 on a cold, snowy afternoon.
Neither team was able to do much on offense all afternoon. Michigan State took a 6-0 lead in the third quarter, but Pickering was the difference for the Huskers.
On three straight drives in the fourth quarter, Pickering made field goals of 36, 20 and 47 yards. The freshman nailed the career-long 47-yarder with swirling winds in the snow to give Nebraska a 9-6 lead with 5:13 left in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska (4-7) held Michigan State (6-5) at bay in the closing minutes to seal the win.
Adrian Martinez finished the day 16 for 37 on the day for 145 passing yards. Devine Ozigbo ran for 74 against the top run defense in the country. Senior safety Antonio Reed had a career day with seven tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss, an interception, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Neither team exceeded 300 total yards in what was the lowest scoring Husker game since 2010. Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi finished the day 15 for 41 for 146 passing yards and 53 rushing yards.
After a chippy first half with multiple personal fouls and little offense, the Spartans took a 3-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Nebraska fumbled four times in the first 30 minutes. Michigan State recovered two of those fumbles but turned neither into points. Nebraska opened the game with a three-and-out, and the Spartans followed that with a 10-play, 50-yard scoring drive that ended in a 34-yard field goal.
Martinez led the Huskers across the 50-yard-line twice, but twice head coach Scott Frost elected to go for it on fourth down, and twice a Martinez pass fell incomplete. Against the top run defense in the country, Nebraska tried to throw, but the cold wind stunted the NU offense, and MSU’s front seven were as advertised, holding NU to 99 total rushing yards in the first and just 248 total yards.
Michigan State was no better with 289 total yards.
Martinez was sacked in the second quarter and put the ball on the turf for NU’s fourth fumble of the day. MSU recovered in the red zone and a 15-yard penalty on Mohamed Barry put the ball at the 12-yard-line for the Spartans. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Michigan State on third down pushed a field goal attempt back 15 yards. The 41-yard try hit the post.
Following that drive, the heat turned up in Lincoln. Michigan State lineman slammed NU corners and tight ends into the ground after plays. Nebraska defensive backs bumped face masks with Michigan State wide receivers.
On the final drive of the half, MSU threatened to score again. Lombardi converted two third downs on the ground. A pass interference on Lamar Jackson moved the ball past the 50. But a heave to the end zone was picked off by Antonio Reed with three seconds remaining, and NU went into the half down 3-0. Reed finished the half with one pick, one forced fumble and one tackle for loss.
Michigan State opened the second half by driving to the 50 but was forced to punt. Morgan misjudged that punt and jumped on a potential fumble before it rolled into the end zone. Snow began to fall as Nebraska’s next possession began at the 2-yard line, but the Huskers couldn’t put together a drive yet again.
The snow stuck around for the rest of the game.
A 36-yard pass play from Lombardi to Connor Heyward jump-started an MSU drive near the end of the third. In the fourth, Lombardi completed a pass to Darrell Stewart on third-and-8. On third-and-goal, Luke Gifford sniffed out a shovel pass forcing another field goal. Kicker Matt Coghlin knocked in a 26-yarder for a 6-0 lead with 12:13 left.
Then, Nebraska finally answered back. Martinez found Morgan for 35 yards in the slot. On fourth-and-9 near the end zone, Frost elected to kick the field goal. Barret Pickering knocked in a 36-yarder to make it 6-3 with 11:07 remaining.
On the second play of Michigan State’s next drive, Reed flew in unblocked and rocked Lombardi, forcing his second fumble on the day. Damion Daniels jumped on the ball. Nebraska got down to the 2-yard-line on an Ozigbo run, but couldn’t get by the stiff MSU defense. Pickering knocked in a 20-yarder for 6-6 with 8:07 left.
Reed knocked away a pass on third down to give Nebraska the ball back on the next MSU drive. Nebraska got into Pickering’s range, and he sent the ball through the uprights for a 9-6 lead, sending Memorial Stadium into a frenzy in the cold.
Michigan State got the ball back with just under four minutes remaining in the game. On third-and-6, Lombardi kept the Spartans alive with an 8-yard run. A third-and-10 pass interference on Lamar Jackson bailed out the Spartans.
On fourth-and-4, UCF transfer Tre Neal knocked a pass away and Nebraska took over on downs. And that was game.
Husker captain Jerald Foster ‘can’t wait’ to beat Iowa on Black Friday
Jerald Foster couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
The senior guard had just completed his Memorial Stadium career with wild 9-6 win over Michigan State. He was already looking forward to the final game of his career. He and the Huskers have some unfinished business with Iowa.
“I can’t wait to beat Iowa,” Foster said. “I really can’t.”
Nebraska hasn’t beaten the Hawkeyes since 2014, which means that neither Foster nor his classmates own a win over their biggest rival. Doing it Friday in Iowa City would cap a November surge. Losing Friday, however, would drop Nebraska to 4-8, matching last year’s record, the worst since 1961.
Foster hopes the Hawkeyes are excited for the matchup.
“I know I am. We’re gonna go up to Iowa and have some fun.”
Stanley Morgan breaks career receptions record, Devine Ozigbo reaches 1,000 rushing yards
A Husker record was broken and a milestone was reached Saturday in Memorial Stadium.
Senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan became the school record holder for career receptions, and senior running back Devine Ozigbo reached 1,000 rushing yards for the season.
Morgan passed Kenny Bell’s mark when he recorded his 182nd career catch. It was his fourth of the game and came late in the fourth quarter
Ozigbo entered the game against Michigan State with 958 rushing yards. He broke the 1,000-yard mark on his 11th carry of the game. He’s the first Husker to reach that milestone since Ameer Abdullah had 1,611 in 2014.
Huskers and Spartans part of emotional pregame ceremony honoring Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler
LINCOLN — Moments after the gates to Memorial Stadium opened Saturday, there was a ceremony at midfield that brought tears to Scott Frost, Mark Dantonio, players and others from Nebraska and Michigan State.
The gathering honored the memories of Nebraska’s Sam Foltz and Michigan State’s Mike Sadler, who died in an automobile accident in Wisconsin in July 2016.
Saturday’s game was the first time the Huskers and Spartans had played since 2015 when Foltz was the Husker punter and holder for extra points and field goals. Sadler had finished his career as MSU’s punter in 2014.
Karen Sadler, Mike’s mother, and several members of the Foltz family, including parents Gerald and Jill, were presented gifts from Nebraska and Michigan State officials. They were joined by the specialists — placekickers, punters, holders and snappers — from both teams for photos, handshakes and hugs.
Gerald Foltz said these kinds of remembrances are appreciated but sometimes can be difficult even though more than two years have passed since his son died.
“It just depends on the situation,” Foltz said. “Sometimes it’s fine, you can talk about it. The next minute you just have to leave.
“Sam was that total guy. You guys, the news media, loved him because he answered your questions. Good games, bad games, whatever. He’d take the blame for what’s going on, always say we’re going to work harder.”
Former Nebraska kicker Drew Brown, who attended the same kicking camp in 2016, stayed behind the gathered crowd.
Brown, who graduated in 2017, then approached former teammates Caleb Lightbourn and Jordan Ober from behind and put his arms around their shoulders before hugging both players.
Before heading to midfield, Karen Sadler placed a bouquet of flowers at the 3-yard line on the west sideline — where NU opponents huddle on game day — while the Foltz family did the same at the 27 on the east sideline.
Sadler’s jersey number was 3 and Foltz wore 27, a number that has not been assigned to another Nebraska player since his passing.
The ceremony hit Frost particularly hard. After hugging Gerald and Jill before a warm embrace with Karen Sadler, Frost left midfield fighting back tears while heading back to the Nebraska locker room.
Seeing and speaking to Frost brought back a happy memory for Gerald from Sam’s senior year at Grand Island.
“Sam’s senior year, and he was out at Oregon, he called up Sam, he was trying to recruit him,” Foltz said. “We were going to a basketball game. I remember Sam coming up the stairs.
“Of course, he knew area codes and all that, and he said, ‘Boy, this is weird. I got a call from the West Coast. I’ve got to go play basketball, I’ll deal with it later.’”
Once the basketball game was over, Sam Foltz came home to follow up on that phone call.
“After the game, of course he always came right home, downstairs he went. (Then) 45 minutes later he came up and said, ‘That was Coach Frost. That was SCOTT FROST on the phone.’
“I said ‘What are you talking about, is he trying to recruit you for track or something?’ He said, ‘No, football dad, football. But I can’t figure out why he wanted me.’”
Though they’ve talked briefly a couple of time since Frost returned to Lincoln, those are the kinds of stories Gerald hopes he and Frost can share once the season is over and Frost has a chance to catch his breath.
“I’m trying to stay away from him until he gets settled in,” Foltz said. “Hopefully one of these days I’ll get to go up and visit with him for an hour or so. I can’t wait to visit with him.
“Sam was so humble. This guy from Oregon was trying to recruit him. Of course he wasn’t going to go because he’s Nebraska through and through. It was just really humbling for him to get that experience.”
A commemorative coin with Foltz on one side and Sadler on the other was used for the coin toss before the game.
Because they were the visiting team Saturday, Michigan State got to call Foltz or Sadler. The Spartans captains chose Sadler, and that side was up when the coin landed.
The Spartans chose to defer to the second half and played with the wind at their backs in the first quarter.
There were 19 seniors honored Saturday before playing their final home game. Parents and others joined players on the field to have their picture taken with Frost while the crowd gave each player an ovation.
Senior captain and left guard Jerald Foster was the final player introduced. The construction management major was joined on the field by parents Jesse and Charlesette and his older brother Trey, a former Nebraska tight end.
Trey said there was no way he was going to miss greeting his baby brother and best friend on his final appearance at Memorial Stadium.
“He was out here two years ago for me two years ago when it was freezing cold,” Trey said.
Cold balloon release
As the first half was winding down and Nebraska had yet to score, Husker fans let their red balloons fly with about three minutes before halftime.
Once the first few started to rise toward the sky from North Stadium, balloons began to take flight from other parts of the stadium. It was cold, and fans needed to start rubbing their hands together to keep warm.
Temperature for Husker game wasn’t as low as last week, but wind made it feel much colder
LINCOLN — This may sound familiar, but it’s cold on this November day.
As of 8 a.m. it was around 27 degrees in Lincoln, but a 24-mph north wind has it feeling like 14 degrees. The temperature hadn’t changed by kickoff three hours later, and wind gusts were recorded at 33 mph.
It was 23 degrees at kickoff last week against Illinois, the coldest kickoff in 25 years, but with little to no wind.
And to add to the wintry conditions, snow began to fall midway through the third quarter.