Another week, another ending that will be talked about for years to come. This one, though, will have a direct impact on both the Big Ten Eest race and the national playoff picture.
With :17 seconds left and No. 7 Michigan State leading 38-33, Nebraska’s Brandon Reilly was on the receiving end of a 30-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Armstrong that gave the Cornhuskers a 39-38 lead. However, replay clearly showed that Reilly stepped out of bounds — he was not forced out by the MSU defensive player — and was the first player to touch the ball when he came back in.
The touchdown should’ve been nullified; instead, it was allowed to stand after it was sent up to the booth for review. Even one of the Big Ten Network’s own in-house mouthpieces publicly questioned the sanity of the call.
The Spartans had one last chance from their own 40-yard line with :14 remaining, completing a pass on the first play of their last possession into Cornhusker territory at the 41-yard line. With :08 left and armed with a timeout, all MSU needed was 5-10 yards for a reasonable attempt at a game-winning field goal; instead, senior Connor Cook took way too long in getting rid of the ball on the second play of the drive, throwing the ball out of bounds as the clock expired on both the game and, potentially, MSU’s playoff hopes.
The loss brought an end to MSU’s 12-game winning streak and dropped them to 4-1 in Big Ten play, tied with Michigan and one game behind 5-0 Ohio State. The Spartans will face the Buckeyes in two weeks in Columbus. MSU, in addition to handling Maryland and Penn State, would need a win there, and then hope Michigan can take down the Buckeyes the following weekend if they hope to claim the West and a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
For the Cornhuskers, it was a much-needed boost after a couple of heartbreaking, last-second losses in Mike Riley‘s first season with the Big Red. Coming into the game at 3-6, the Cornhuskers needed to win their last three games to become bowl-eligible. The MSU win was the first step, with steps against Rutgers and unbeaten Iowa remaining to avoid going bowl-less for the first time since 2007.