Michigan State rolls into town this week 13 months after one of the almost-greatest comebacks in Nebraska history.
It’s been 13 months, people, and I’m still not over how close Nebraska, then 5-0, came to knocking off the No. 10 team in the country.
And considering what's happened to Nebraska football in the past 13 months, looking back the 27-22 loss last October is nothing short of fascinating. A win could have changed everything. Nebraska would have been 6-0 on the year with a win over a top 10 team. It would have gone into Wisconsin a College Football Playoff contender and the "Bo Pelini can't win the big game" monkey on Nebraska's back would have been lessened a bit.
So before No. 7 Michigan State comes into Lincoln to play the 3-6 Nebraska squad in three days, let’s break it down last year’s tape.
Let’s start with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter. Nebraska is down 27 to 9. Most Michigan State fans have left by now.
On 1st and 5 from the Nebraska 37-yard line, quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. is almost picked off in what could have been a game-sealing pick-6, but instead is a Jordan Westerkamp 41-yard pass play.
An interception there all-but ends the game. A pick-6 puts it at 34-9. But, alas, Nebraska dodges a huge bullet.
A few plays later, Ameer Abdullah pounds the ball into the endzone, pushing Nebraska to a 27-16 deficit with just over four minutes to play. After Abdullah scored, Kirk Herbstreit said the score would make Nebraska's loss "respectable."
Michigan State proceeded to muff the kick off and was pinned down on its own 10-yard line. The Spartans ran the ball three straight times, but couldn't get a first down. They were forced to punt. Then, the legend of De'mornay Pierson-El grew.
And we had a ballgame. After a failed two-point conversion and a failed onside kickoff, Nebraska trailed 27-22. Michigan State milked the clock down for nearly two minutes. With no time outs, Michigan State needed one more first down to close out the game. But on 3rd and four near the redzone, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory chased down Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford, forcing him out of bounds and stopping the clock with 1:12 left.
The stop made it fourth down, but on the 19-yard line, Michigan State elected to try and kick a field goal to make it an eight point game.
But the field goal nailed the left upright, giving Nebraska the ball and a chance to win the game with a touchdown.
So here we were. Nebraska with the ball, down 27-22, 80 yards to go with no timeouts and a chance to win.
After missing Abdullah in the flat on first down, Armstrong gunned it to Alonzo Moore for 43 yards, putting Nebraska in Michigan State territory.
Armstrong's throw was clutch and couldn't have been placed better.
So now Nebraska was in striking distance on the Michigan State 37-yard line. With 42 seconds left, Armstrong gunned it again to Moore, this time near the pylon.
Moore said this week he thinks about this play often. Can you blame him? Look how close this ball was to being caught.
It was an impossible catch for an impossible comeback. One play later, Armstrong was picked off.
The Huskers fell to 5-1 and would proceed to get slaughtered by the Badgers the next week.
The comeback could have changed so much. Instead, we're all left to just wonder what could have been.