Lincoln – In a hard-hitting four-quarter battle, a late fumble after Adrian Martinez pushed forward for a first down and the short field goal by Michigan’s Jake Moody that followed produced the narrow 32-29 margin for the No. 9 Wolverines to escape from Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
Trailing 29-26, Moody kicked his third field goal of the night from 31 yards out to tie game with three minutes left.
Nebraska took over with three minutes to cover 75 yards, but on 3rd-and-1 from its own 34, Martinez crossed the 35 and advanced to the 37. He was stood up and stripped of the football by Wolverine linebacker Brad Hawkins, who returned the fumble 19 yards to the Michigan 18. The Huskers were stunned, but the Blackshirts refused to break. Nebraska pushed the Wolverines back three yards, forcing Moody to boot his fourth field goal of the game, this time from 39 yards, to give Michigan a 32-29 lead.
Despite giving up the lead, Nebraska still had time to strike, taking over with 1:28 left and no timeouts. Martinez quickly hooked up with Samori Toure for a 25-yard gain to midfield. But the Huskers could push no farther, as Michigan forced a turnover on downs to end Nebraska’s hopes of an upset by taking two snaps in victory formation to hand the Huskers their first home loss of the season.
Nebraska slipped to 3-4 overall with all four losses by one score, including three to top-20 opponents by a total of 13 points. Michigan improved to 6-0 and 3-0 in the Big Ten.
After a scoreless first quarter, Moody opened the scoring with a 35-yard field goal after a short 18-yard drive that was set up by a Michigan interception on a deflected pass across the middle. The Wolverines pushed the lead to 6-0 on a 21-yard Moody field goal with 3:19 left, after a drive that feature the strange, the bizarre and improbable among and endless string of official reviews. The last one wiped off a Michigan rushing touchdown when the call on the field was reversed, ruling that Wolverine quarterback Cade McNamara’s knee was down before he handed the ball off for the touchdown.
The Huskers appeared ready to answer late in the quarter, but their drive stalled and Michigan marched 76 yards in 11 plays and just 1:28, capped by a Hassan Haskins three-yard touchdown run to take a 13-0 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Nebraska started the second half with the ball and immediately showed they were ready to fight back. Martinez hit tight end Austin Allen as he released from the line of scrimmage, and Allen raced 46 yards untouched into the end zone to cut the Michigan margin to 13-7 just 2:11 into the second half.
The Wolverines answered with a second three-yard scoring run by Haskins with 3:36 left in the third, but Michigan’s two-point pass attempt failed. Michigan still led 19-7 after a 10-play, 91-yard drive.
Nebraska provided another quick-strike answer, as Martinez capped a five-play, 75-yard drive with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Rahmir Johnson to cut the lead to 19-14. Johnson finished with the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, hauling in six receptions for 105 yards, while adding 17 carries for 67 yards on the ground.
But the Huskers weren’t done yet in the third quarter, as Deontai Williams intercepted a McNamara pass across the middle and returned it 20 yards to the Michigan 13. On the next play, Martinez hit Levi Falck on a 13-yard touchdown pass to give Nebraska its first lead of the night with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. Martinez capped the score with a two-yard run for a two-point conversion to give the Huskers a 22-19 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Michigan regained the lead on a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by Blake Corum’s 29-yard touchdown run with 11:21 left in the game. Martinez and the Huskers took over with a chance to respond, trailing 26-22. The Big Red covered 75 yards in eight plays and 4:13 to reclaim a 29-26 lead with 7:08 left.
The Wolverines then found another answer with a nine-play, 69-yard drive in 4:01 capped by Moody’s 31-yard field goal to tie the game with three minutes left.
In an evenly played game, Michigan finished with 459 yards compared to 431 for the Huskers. Martinez led the offense with 18 completions on 28 attempts for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He added eight carries for 38 yards and another touchdown and his two-point conversion.
McNamara led the Wolverines through the air with 255 passing yards on 22-of-38 throwing. Haskins led Michigan on the ground with 123 yards and two scores on 21 attempts, while Corum contributed 89 yards and a touchdown on 13 totes.
Nick Henrich led the Blackshirts with 15 tackles, while fellow linebacker Luke Reimer pitched in 12 stops. Cam Taylor-Britt also played a big game in the secondary, notching 11 tackles and three big breakups.
Nebraska returns to Big Ten road action next Saturday when the Huskers take on Minnesota in Minneapolis. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.