Photo Credit: Eric Francis

No. 3 Michigan Shuts Down Nebraska in Convincing 34-3 Display

November 12, 2022

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The snow stopped falling at Michigan Stadium by the second quarter of Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff. But by 5 p.m. the Huskers were blanketed by a sheet of something they couldn’t escape.

Third-string quarterback Logan Smothers couldn’t jumpstart the Nebraska offense as wounded offensive coordinator Mark Whipple moved to the booth in the second half. Meanwhile, the diesel engine of No. 3 Michigan steadily hummed, eating yards and time on the way to points. With each defensive snap, Nebraska took a few steps back. Again. And again. Each yard pushed Nebraska further from its aspirations. At the final whistle Nebraska looked up at the dream version of itself––defending Big Ten Champion and potential National Champion. Much more than 31 points separated the two teams.

Nebraska (3-7, 2-5 Big Ten) lost to No. 3 Michigan (10-0, 7-0) on Saturday, 34-3. This loss cemented a sixth consecutive losing season. No bowl game for a sixth consecutive season. Six years––21 games––since the last win over a ranked opponent. One offensive touchdown in the last 159 minutes, 38 seconds of play. Only a Timmy Bleekrode 37-yard second-quarter field goal preserved a streak of 336 games where Nebraska’s scored. Michigan is headed towards Illinois and a potential top-3 matchup with rival Ohio State with Big Ten and College Football Playoff implications. Nebraska is simply headed home.

“I think overall, the kids are playing hard right now under the circumstances that they are under,” interim head coach Mickey Joseph said. “They’re coming out, giving it their all, they’re playing 60 minutes and they’re not quitting.”

Nebraska walked out the singular tunnel at Michigan Stadium as the historic underdog, 30-point underdogs against the third-ranked team in the country a quarter century after the two split a National Championship. The Nebraska coaches didn’t need to stoke an underdog mentality––the players already knew.

No. 3 Michigan exited the same tunnel every bit of its billing. Physical, strong, imposing, determined. Its defense displayed resolve, shutting down Nebraska’s opening drive after conceding Chubba Purdy’s 30-yard completion to Marcus Washington. Its offense surged forward. A veteran line surged 4 yards at a time and Heisman hopeful Blake Corum steadily churned. It took nearly 7 minutes and a fourth-down conversion but Corum found the end zone his first time Saturday and kept going. He finished with 162 yards on 28 carries.

This was the first game this season Nebraska did not lead or tie beyond 0-0. They couldn’t match a single scoreboard stride with Michigan. In hindsight, Corum’s touchdown run effectively won the game. JJ McCarthy’s 9-yard touchdown throw to Ronnie Bell added an insurance score. What transpired after compounded Nebraska’s losses like another snowflake among so many others. Purdy scrambled toward the Michigan sidelines near the red zone and awkwardly attempted a slide. His body bent with the oncoming collision and he couldn’t get up. He went to the locker room just before halftime and returned for the second half on crutches and in a boot. Casey Thompson, listed atop the depth chart but still out with nerve damage in his throwing hand, didn’t travel to Michigan. So in came Smothers to salvage the drive with Bleekrode’s field goal.

If Purdy’s injury was another falling flake, what followed was the one that shook the mountain. Michigan’s A.J. Henning ran the ensuing kickoff return up the Nebraska sidelines and DeShon Singleton forced Henning out of bounds. Together they collided with Whipple, taking the 65-year old playcaller off his feet in agony. Staffers helped Whipple eventually get to his feet. He watched Michigan’s 4-minute drive end in a field goal with a support staff member at each arm, one clinging to him. Whipple still held the play calling sheet but went to get x-rays at halftime. He finished the second half in the booth, relaying plays to the field.

“It’s something you can’t really control if you get hurt or not,” senior tight end Travis Vokolek said. “We’ve just got to have the next-man-up mentality when someone goes down.”

Nebraska’s offensive plights didn’t end with the three consecutive three-and-outs in the first half. The Huskers ran four drives in the second half. Three ended in punts and one ended the game. They moved the chains on all but the final drive, they just couldn’t do it again. The third-ranked team in the country smothered them. Nebraska managed just 43 second-half yards and three first downs compared to Michigan’s 14. McCarthy kept a 2-yard keeper and Anthony Andrel jumped on a fumble in the end zone for a fortunate Wolverines score. It was a sign of the night. The football heavens rewarded a dominant performance. Moody’s 43-yard field goal with just over a minute left held the Wolverines to the title of 30-point favorites.

It struck a harsh realization into some Huskers.

“We’ve got two more games together, stuff might be different, who knows,” Colton Feist said afterwards. “Players, coaches, stuff like that. We’re just trying to come together and do everything we can to win these last two games. These are two big games, Wisconsin and Iowa, so we’re playing for something still.”

This isn’t the first piece of adversity this Nebraska team’s been dealt. And yet, the Huskers take the field every Saturday they’re supposed to. They get two more opportunities to do that after Saturday. Two clean slates before the snowglobe shakes again.

“We’re a gritty group of guys, that just tells you how close we are,” team captain edge Garrett Nelson said. “I’d rather die than let these guys down. I think everyone’s on the same page.

“We’ll play as long as we can, as hard as we can, for each other.”

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