EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Chester Kimbrough intercepted Adrian Martinez’s pass in overtime and Matt Coghlin made a 21-yard field goal to keep No. 20 Michigan State unbeaten with a 23-20 win over Nebraska on Saturday night.
The Spartans (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten) won despite not converting a first down in the second half.
Michigan State’s special teams came up big late in regulation. Jayden Reed returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown with 3:47 left in regulation to tie it 20-all.
It appeared Nebraska wanted a directional punt to the right, but Daniel Cerni sent it left. Jalen Nailor, also back as a return man, acted as if he were readying himself to field the punt as much of the coverage closed in on him, but it was Reed who caught the ball. With most of the coverage on the other side of the field, Reed was able to find plenty of running room.
The Cornhuskers (2-3, 0-2) bowed up on defense. Payton Thorne completed just two passes in the second half, and Kenneth Walker III, who entered the game as the nation’s leading rusher, was bottled up all night. Walker finished with 61 yards on 19 carries and set up the winning field goal with a 23-yard run, his longest of the game, on MSU’s first play in overtime.
This was Nebraska’s 14th straight loss to a ranked team. The Huskers haven’t beaten a Top 25 opponent on the road since 2011.
Adrian Martinez was 24 of 34 for 248 yards. He rushed for two touchdowns.
Nebraska: There were too many unforced errors by the Huskers. Nebraska committed four false start penalties in the first half, and Martinez fumbled the ball away in the second half.
Michigan State: After squandering scoring opportunities in the first half, the Spartans couldn’t create enough chances after halftime. But there were just enough heroics in the end.
Losses by No. 14 Iowa State and No. 18 Wisconsin mean Michigan State should move up. The fan base would love a jump over rival Michigan, as the No. 19 Wolverines struggled in a 20-13 win against Rutgers.
Michigan State defensive end Drew Beesley left the game in the second quarter with a lower-leg injury. He returned to the sideline in a walking boot.
Nebraska: Hosts Northwestern on Oct. 2.
Michigan State: Hosts Western Kentucky on Oct. 2.