Nebraska blows golden opportunity, loses 32-29 to No. 9 Michigan after late fumble

·3 min read

Nebraska nearly got the signature win it has been seeking under Scott Frost.

The Huskers entered the weekend with just a 3-3 record, but it has been clear to even the most casual observers that this team has been playing better in recent weeks. On Saturday night with No. 9 Michigan visiting Lincoln, Frost’s team showed it.

But it wouldn’t matter.

Michigan tied the game at 29-29 with a field goal with 3:00 to go, leaving Nebraska with a chance to drive down the field and win. Instead, disaster struck.

On the third play of the ensuing possession, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez fumbled while fighting for extra yardage. It was a third-and-1 play and Martinez had already picked up the first down, but a Michigan defender alertly stripped him.

That gave the ball right back to Michigan deep in Nebraska territory. The Wolverines promptly tacked on another field goal, stopped the Nebraska offense again and walked out of Memorial Stadium with a 32-29 win.

The turn of events left Frost seemingly on the verge of tears on the sideline.

It was simply a brutal outcome for Nebraska, a team that was shut out in the first half but surged back to take a 22-19 lead in the final minute of the third quarter and then a 29-26 lead midway through the fourth.

Martinez fought valiantly as he has for much of his career. He threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. But he couldn’t come through down the stretch when it mattered most. The fumble was inexcusable. And he missed an open Levi Falck on a drag route on Nebraska’s final drive that could have gone for a big gain.

The defense helped get the lead by intercepting Michigan’s Cade McNamara, but also couldn’t get the clutch stop it needed. The two times the Huskers went ahead in the second half, Michigan immediately responded with scoring drives of its own.

With the heartbreaking loss, the Huskers dropped to 3-4 on the year and are now 0-10 vs. ranked teams under Frost. 

With five regular season games remaining, Nebraska needs to finish 3-2 to play in a bowl game for the first time in Frost's tenure. With No. 7 Ohio State and No. 3 Iowa (both at home) on the schedule, it won't be easy.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost protests a delay of game penalty for use of illegal signals, during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Lincoln, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)
Nebraska coach Scott Frost protests a delay of game penalty for use of illegal signals, during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Lincoln, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)

Another good win for Michigan

Halfway through the regular season, Michigan is 6-0 and firmly in the College Football Playoff conversation. Saturday's trip to Lincoln was Michigan's toughest test so far, and the Wolverines were able to pass that test. 

This is still a team that is very dependent on the running game. Against the Huskers, Michigan rushed for 204 yards on 42 carries. McNamara was finally forced to go to the air more than he had all year. He had mixed results, going 22-of-38 for 255 yards, but made some timely throws in the second half. 

Next for Jim Harbaugh's group is a bye week before a tough back-half of the schedule. The Wolverines still have road trips to both Michigan State and Penn State, as well as the rivalry game with Ohio State. Michigan hasn't beaten OSU since 2011. 

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