OT intercept lifts No. 20 Spartans over Nebraska 23-20
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said he’s shown his players video highlights of special teams units across the country making game-changing games gives it.
His Spartans, ranked 20th, delivered a local adaptation on Saturday night.
With the offense crackling, Jayden Reed returned a 62-yard punt for a tying touchdown with 3:47 left in regulation, and Chester Kimbrough’s massive overtime defensive play helped the Spartans win a 23-20 victory over Nebraska.
Matt Coghlin’s 21-yard field goal on MSU’s possession in overtime kept his team undefeated and sparked a celebration at Spartan Stadium. MSU have won nine of their last 11 night games and are enjoying their best start since the 2015 squad opened 8-0.
Kimbrough’s interception came as he passed Samori Touré just as the ball came in on the third down. Kimbrough brought him back deep into Nebraska territory, but he couldn’t reach the end zone.
“I was just playing my cover, I trusted my cover and my technique,” Kimbrough said. “We excelled, man. I am proud of my team.
On Reed’s tie-off, Nebraska wanted a directional punt to the right, but Daniel Cerni sent it to the left. Jalen Nailor, also back as the returning man, acted like he was going to line up the punt as the cover moved closer to him, but it was Reed who caught the ball. With most of the coverage on the other side of the field, Reed was able to find plenty of room to run.
“It’s something we’ve been working on,” Reed said. “We had a little lure.”
Nebraska coach Scott Frost said kicker Daniel Cerni was supposed to send him back to the other end of the field.
“We have guys in college specifically for the purpose,” Frost said. “And we had a few 10-yard punters that almost cost us, and when we needed it most, we sent it to the wrong end of the field. Some of the guys on the cover didn’t see it and it cost us the game.
The Spartans (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten) won although they did not convert a first try in the second half.
“We had no reason to lose this game,” said Frost.
After being led 13-10 at halftime, the Cornhuskers (2-3, 0-2) lost in defense. Payton Thorne completed just two assists in the second half, and Kenneth Walker III, who entered the game as the nation’s top rusher, was stranded overnight.
Walker finished with 61 yards on 19 carries and established the winning basket with a game-longest 23-yard rush in MSU’s first overtime play.
It was Nebraska’s 14th straight loss to a ranked team, including the ninth in a row under Frost. The Huskers haven’t beaten a Top 25 opponent on the road since 2011.
Martinez left the game for a streak in the first quarter after two defensemen tackled him hard on a run game on the Huskers’ opening possession. He completed 24 of 34 passes for 248 yards and ran 19 times for 59 yards and two touchdowns.
Take it away
Nebraska: There were too many straightforward mistakes on the part of the Huskers. Nebraska received four false start penalties in the first half and Martinez missed the ball in the second half.
Michigan State: After wasting scoring opportunities in the first half, the Spartans couldn’t create enough chances after half time. But there was just enough heroism at the end.
The losses of No.14 in Iowa State and No.18 in Wisconsin mean Michigan State is set to advance. The fan base would love a jump on rival Michigan, as the No.19 Wolverines struggled in a 20-13 victory over Rutgers.
For the second time this season, the Spartans completed a flea flicker for a touchdown.
Thorne got Walker’s pitch back and found Reed for 35 yards in the second quarter.
The same line combined for a 75-yard touchdown in Game 1 of the 42-14 victory over Youngstown State on September 11.
Michigan State defensive end Drew Beesley left the game in the second quarter with a leg injury. He returned to the sidelines in a walking boot. Tucker said he would be assessed on Sunday.
Nebraska: Welcomes Northwestern on October 2.
State of Michigan: Welcomes Western Kentucky on October 2.
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