To conclude a second-half shootout, both the Nebraska and Michigan defenses made plays.
The first play — the biggest of the night — came from the Wolverine defense after the offense had just tied the game.
The Huskers, looking to lead a game-winning drive, had the ball at their 34-yard line on a third-and-one. Quarterback Adrian Martinez picked up the yardage himself, running into a pile and fighting for the first. However, as the pile proceeded, the ball was stripped from his hands.
Martinez said he thought the play was over and he was standing straight up when the ball was jarred out, but he also wouldn’t use that as an excuse.
“Can’t be careless with the football,” he said. “… I feel a lot of responsibility and can’t make plays like that that hurt our team.”
The call was one of multiple that Nebraska found questionable on the night. Tight end Austin Allen had a similar sentiment about Martinez’s fumble, airing his frustrations but acknowledging they couldn’t get hung up on that.
“We get no calls. That’s nothing new,” Allen said. “But we can’t let the refs dictate how we play.”
As bad of a position the turnover put the Huskers in, the game wasn’t quite over, and Nebraska’s defense didn’t let the sudden change affect it.
Michigan ran for 4 yards on first down, then was stuffed for no gain and a loss of 7 on third down. Nebraska used its three timeouts to save time for a final drive, and the Wolverines hit the field goal to go up three with just under 90 seconds left.
Nebraska’s defense did the best it could do, short of a turnover or blocked field goal. Defensive lineman Ty Robinson said as much as it “sucked” to see Martinez fumble, they were excited to get back on the field with another chance of proving themselves.
“We love those,” he said. “Any sudden change, we say put out the fire. That’s what we say. So we went out there, put out the fire as best we could and get the offense back the ball so we can go score.”
That was one of multiple stops Nebraska made in a high-scoring second half. At the end of the third quarter, Deontai Williams came up with an interception that allowed Nebraska to take its first lead of the game. Two Michigan drives later, Wolverine running back Hassan Haskins hurdled a defender during a 50-yard run.
The Blackshirts rebounded after that play as well, holding Michigan to a game-tying field goal.
Finally, Nebraska had one last chance to tie the game, and that drive began with a 25-yard pass to Samori Touré. After that, Martinez threw three incompletions and a completion for no gain from midfield, unable to push the team into field goal range.
The final throw was a deep ball that fell a few yards away from a well-covered Touré.
“We tried to take a shot to one of our best players,” head coach Scott Frost said. “We just needed one more play to keep the chains going.”