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October 29, 2011Nebraska improved to 7-1 on the season with a convincing 24-3 victory over No. 9 ranked Michigan State in Memorial Stadium.
Here is Saturday's complete report card grade as NU will now take on Northwestern next week in Lincoln.
Rushing offense: A
Michigan State came into Lincoln on Saturday only giving up 88.9 yards per game on the ground, which was ranked second nationally. To win this game NU knew they had to find a way to rush the ball on the Spartans. NU did, as they went for 190 yards on 58 carries, but most importantly they had back-to-back scoring drives of 80 and 84 yards in the third quarter that really opened this game up. Running back Rex Burkhead was a warrior, carrying the ball 35 times for 130 yards and accounting for all three of Nebraska's touchdowns.
Passing offense: B
Quarterback Taylor Martinez didn't have a pretty stat line throwing the football, but it was enough to get the job done. Martinez was 7-of-13 for 80 yards. He threw one touchdown, but also had an interception on a ball that went through the hands of Kenny Bell. I thought Martinez came up big hitting Brandon Kinnie on the two hitch routes and he also threw a beautiful ball to Burkhead for a touchdown off a wheel route. Nebraska really didn't have to throw in this game, but the few times they needed to Martinez executed. The 19 yard middle screen to Bell was also a nice call by offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
Rushing defense: A-
Michigan State tried to run at NU early, but the Spartans got down and were forced to go away from the ground game. MSU finished with only 101 yards rushing on 30 carries. I really liked how Nebraska's corners played the run when Michigan State ran toss sweeps to the outside. Will Compton probably played the best game of his career at linebacker finishing with seven tackles, including one tackle for loss. Lavonte David led the Huskers with 13 tackles.
Passing defense: A+
This was far and away the best passing defense Nebraska has played all season. Everything started with Lance Thorell's interception off Kirk Cousins. Alfonzo Dennard also blanketed the field, finishing with three pass break-ups. The most impressive stat of the day was MSU star wide receiver B.J. Cunningham didn't have a single catch on Saturday, snapping a 41 game reception streak. Going into this game Cunningham was also the leading receiver in the Big Ten Conference. Cousins was just 11-of-27 for 86 yards, playing by far the worst game of his career. The fact that Carl Pelini only had to rush four to get pressure on Cousins was huge, because it kept seven in coverage, meaning everybody was almost always double-teamed.
Special teams: C
This was one of the more disappointing aspects for Nebraska on Saturday, as running back Ameer Abdullah fumbled a kickoff and a punt, but NU was able to recover both of them. Nick Hill also had a 62 yard kick return that nearly went for a touchdown for Michigan State. I thought this was the one area of the game where Michigan State was better at than Nebraska on Saturday.