It was never supposed to be fun for Nebraska, and it was not in unique ways as No. 3 Michigan rolled to a 34-3 win on Saturday while the Huskers had nearly a season’s worth of misfortune in 60 minutes. The Wolverines kept the Huskers’ offense on the sideline for much of the second half while a grinding run game proved too much for Nebraska.
For the second straight week, Chubba Purdy started at quarterback, and there was at least a moment of momentum early. He found wide receiver Marcus Washington for 30 yards on a beautifully thrown ball on third-and-6 on the game’s first drive, but the Huskers couldn’t capitalize on reaching Michigan territory.
The Wolverines responded with a patient and punishing 12-play drive that covered 80 yards in 6:48, capped by running back Blake Corum’s 2-yard touchdown plunge. Corum carried seven times on the opening drive.
What followed was punts––three for the Huskers, two for Michigan as Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy started 2-for-7. The Wolverines got back to running the ball early in the second quarter. Three straight Corum runs covered 17 yards to get Michigan’s fourth drive started. McCarthy found tight end Colston Loveland for 28 yards, Corum carried for 12 and then McCarthy found wide receiver Ronnie Bell in the end zone to make it 14-0.
Nebraska’s offense finally got things moving on the ensuing drive as Purdy carried for 13 yards then found wide receiver Alante Brown for a 13-yard pickup on third-and-6. A roughing the passer penalty, Michigan’s first of the game, set the Huskers up at the Wolverine 30. Purdy continued to find room to scramble, picking up 7 yards then 8, though he came up injured following a slide at the Michigan 15. Logan Smothers entered the game, but the Huskers would have to settle for a field goal. The Wolverines responded by grinding out a field goal drive of its own to make it 17-3 at the half.
But Michigan’s last drive of the half would provide more complications than just the points on the board. On the kickoff, Nebraska offensive coordinator Mark Whipple was accidentally hit below the waist as return man A.J. Henning was tackled near the sideline. Whipple remained down on the turf while being tended to by NU’s medical staff and would be carted off. Mickey Joesph took over play-calling duties in the second half with Smothers remaining at quarterback.
Not surprisingly, the unique circumstances were not the spark Nebraska needed. The Huskers forced a punt on Michigan’s opening drive of the second, but the offense never threatened in the second half gaining just 43 yards on 22 total plays while possessing the ball for just over 11 minutes.
Michigan out-gained Nebraska 412-137 on the day, rushing for 264 yards.
On to some quick thoughts, notes and observations from Saturday:
- It wasn’t pretty, but Purdy did enough to keep Nebraska in the game in the first half. At the time of his injury, he was 6-of-12 passing for 56 yards and had carried five times for 39 yards.
- The Wolverines limited Nebraska to 103 total yards in the first half, a continuation of the Huskers’ woes without Casey Thompson. Illinois allowed NU 248 yards two weeks ago, just 31 of them after Thompson went down in the second quarter, and Minnesota kept Nebraska to 267.
- Defensively, Nebraska hung in through the first 30 minutes. The Wolverines had 200 total yards at the half, and the Huskers did a decent job of limiting explosive plays. Michigan had five in the first half (13.8%) and entered Saturday averaging an explosive play on 17.4% of snaps. Nebraska also kept Michigan to 2-of-6 (33.3%) on third down. The Wolverines ranked 13th nationally prior to this game at 49.1%.
- Michigan ran the ball on 67% of plays in the first half, but really kept things basic in the second. The Wolverines rushed 26 times, throwing just seven passes (78% run). Corum finished with 162 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
- Like Purdy in the first half, Smothers completed half of his pass attempts (4-of-8) totaling 15 yards. His four rushing attempts, including sacks, netted 1 yard.
- Michigan had a more than 10-minute edge in time of possession, part of a continuing trend for Nebraska Since beating Rutgers Oct. 7, the Huskers had the ball for just 88:52 of a possible 240 minutes (37%) in losses to Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan.
- Edge rusher Garrett Nelson recorded a first-half sack, giving him 5.5 on the season, a new career high. It also pushed him over The Suh Line.
— Brandon Vogel (@brandonlvogel) November 12, 2022
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.