Grading Nebraska Football: The Huskers report card vs Michigan State

Michigan State's Jordan Hall, left, and Cal Haladay celebrate after beating Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
Michigan State's Jordan Hall, left, and Cal Haladay celebrate after beating Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. /

The Nebraska Football team hoped to become bowl-eligible on Saturday, but instead, they laid an egg against a reeling Michigan State squad.

The Nebraska Football team needed a much better performance than they got against Michigan State in order to win their sixth game of the season for the first time since 2016. Unfortunately, the performance might have been the worst since Michigan.

Here are our grades for Nebraska Football in their 20-17 loss to Michigan State.

Nebraska Football passing offense grade: F

Heinrich Haarberg struggling throwing the ball has been the norm but on Saturday, he easily had his worst performance both in decision making and with his accuracy. Nothing underlined that more than when he had Alex Bullock wide, wide, wide open on a deep ball.

Not only wasn’t the throw accurate, it wasn’t really in the receiver’s vicinity and it was easily picked off. That pass ended up being one that would have been a game winner. Haarberg completed just 12-of-28 passes for 129 yards no touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Even when he completed a pass, it was rarely on target. It wasn’t just Haarberg though. Drops have been a problem all year, and there were at least two passes that could have kept drives going that did hit receivers in the hands, and then hit the ground.

Nebraska Football rushing offense grade: D

One of the things that has won the hearts of Nebraska Football fans over to Heinrich Haarberg is that even when he struggles passing, he makes up for it on the ground. While the quarterback did had a 43 yard run that set up a score and gave Husker fans hope for a comeback, that run allowed him to get back into positive yards. He had 31 yards on 14 carries.

He wasn’t the only one who struggled either. The Huskers averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and Haarberg’s run was the only one over 20 yards. At the core of the rushing offense’s struggles was some poor blocking. Nebraska Football never had a ton of room to run.

Nebraska Football passing defense grade: C-

Michigan State gameplanned for a stout defense quite well and that showed right away as the Blackshirts allowed two wide open passes on the Spartans’ first drive of 17 and then 46 yards. At times, the Huskers looked like their old selves, but in the end, they allowed 232 yards and 2 touchdowns and forced just 9 incompletions.

That included a 42-yard completion by former Nebraska receiver Alante Brown on a trick play.

Nebraska Football rushing defense grade: B-

It feels weird to not give the Huskers an A when they held Michigan State to just 2 yards per carry and just 63 yards on the day, but part of the reason for those totals is that the Spartans didn’t need to run all that much.

The real reason for the lower grade is because when Sparty needed a run to get a first down, they got it. Something just seemed off as the defense wasn’t as locked in as it had been.

Nebraska Football special teams grade: D

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of this season is low key that the special teams hasn’t been better under Ed Foley. While the Nebraska Football team didn’t do anything to shoot itself in the foot, it also didn’t do anything that stood out.

That’s because Billy Kemp IV’s injury limited him to just standing back there and fair catching punts. Why he repeatedly did that inside the Huskers own 10 yard line is a question that needed a better answer.

Brian Buschini also struggled in the punt game, routinely miskicking the ball when the Nebraska Football team needed a booming punt to change the field.

Nebraska Football coaching grade: C-

I said during the game that this Saturday was the first time when Matt Rhule’s staff looked outcoached. I do not and will not understand why offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield decided to come up with a game plan that had Haarberg throwing the ball 15 times in the first half.

While the Nebraska Football running game wasn’t electric, it was solid as evidenced by the Huskers’ first touchdown that came thanks to six straight runs. Tony White’s defense saves this grade, even if it didn’t look as dominating as it has in the past.