EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Going into Saturday night’s Big Ten showdown against Nebraska Michigan State sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne was flawless through the first three games. He hadn’t thrown a single interception, which was tied for first in the nation, but that would all change on the opening drive.
The reigning Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week was picked off less than two minutes into the game, but three drives later he’d redeem himself. Thorne connected with his main man, and go-to receiver, Jayden Reed for a 35-yard touchdown to give MSU the early 7-0 lead.
It was the spark the Spartans needed after only being able to muster a dismal 34 yards of offense in the first quarter.
Nebraska would respond on the ensuing drive. Quarterback Adrian Martinez used his legs, rushing up the middle for a 45-yard gain, and the Cornhuskers would cap it off with a 28-yard field goal from Connor Culp to get on the board.
In fact, it was a battle between the kickers at Spartan Stadium in the first half.
Michigan State had to rely on Matt Coghlin not once, but twice in the second quarter after the Spartans failed to convert in the red zone. His first field goal was from 26 yards out to give MSU a 10-3 lead.
Then he knocked a 27-yarder through the uprights with 1:03 remaining on the clock before halftime. It’s why the Spartans went into the locker room up 13-10.
Both teams were tied at 13 until the fourth quarter. That’s when Martinez put his legs to work again rushing for a 3-yard touchdown to give the Cornhuskers their first lead of the game, 20-13. It was his second rushing touchdown of the night.
The Spartans struggled all night on offense, especially on the ground, but with 3:47 to play Reed ignited Spartan Stadium by returning a punt for 62 yards to tie the game at 20. It’s the first punt return for a touchdown since Keshawn Martin’s 57-yarder against Northwestern in 2011.
The Spartans and Cornhuskers needed extra time to settle the score, and in overtime, Chester Kimbrough picked off Martinez and nearly returned it for the game-winning touchdown, but was brought down.
No. 20 Michigan State took over and won it on a 21-yard field goal by Coghlin to improve to 4-0.