The Nebraska Cornhuskers put together their most dominant outing of the year at the most opportune of times when they trounced the Michigan State Spartans 24-3 on Saturday.
The Huskers’ victory was a team one in many regards. Although they didn’t put forth a complete outing per se, the squad managed to compensate for each other’s weaknesses effectively enough to get the job done.
Case in point: quarterback Taylor Martinez and the offense amassed zero passing yards in the first half. However, by virtue of running back Rex Burkhead’s 50 yards and one score through two quarters and the Alfonzo Dennard/Daimion Stafford combo locking down Michigan State’s No. 1 receiver in B.J. Cunningham, that passing ineffectiveness went relatively unfelt.
All of that being said, even in a “team win” -- which this clearly was -- there are still certain stars that shinejust a little brighter than others. In the case of this particular outing, there were two players that contributed something truly irreplaceable to the victory that deserve to be commended for their efforts.
The players are:
Rex Burkhead – Coming into the game everyone that knew anything about Nebraska football knew that the team needed a big effort from their starting running back. To date, Burkhead has consistently been the Huskers’ most consistent and potent offensive weapon, and the trend continued on Saturday. For the day, Burkhead put up two touchdowns plus 127 yards on the ground, and one touchdown plus 29 yards in the receiving game. As mentioned, it was ultimately Burkhead’s contributions that kept Nebraska float throughout the first half as Martinez struggled to find his rhythm.
Lance Thorell – The Nebraska defense hasn’t gotten a lot of love this year, but that all changed on Saturday. While Dennard and Stafford were arguably the most consistently great defensive players of the game with the way that they disrupted Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins’ flow, the play of the game undoubtedly went to Thorell.
With his team ahead comfortably but looking to continue to extend its lead, Thorell stepped in front of a pass intended for Cunningham and took it down 26 yards towards the end zone. He set the Huskers up on the Spartans’ 25-yard-line, and ultimately Burkhead was able to capitalize on the turnover and turn it into six points seven plays later.
It is important to note, though, that while you can individually point to Burkhead and Thorell for the individual marks they left on this game – it was a team effort that earned the win.
Everyone from the coaching staff who perfectly diagramed how to pass protect against the very talented Cousins, to the offensive players who didn’t get rattled after shaky first half, and ending with the defense that finally regained some confidence on Saturday. Nearly every single member of the team contributed to the win in their own way, and the Huskers should be riding very high heading into next week’s showdown versus the Northwestern Wildcats.
Only time will tell.