The Michigan Wolverines’ first visit to Lincoln, Nebraska in 101 years is definitely one they’d like to forget. Not only did they lose their first place spot in the Big Ten Legends’ division via a loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers 23-9, quarterback Denard Robinson went down in the first half with a wrist injury and never returned.
Redshirt freshman Russell Bellomy would step in for “Shoelace,” but his inexperience shone brightly under the spotlight as yet another sold out Memorial Stadium crowd saw him go 3-for-16 with just 36 yards passing. The Cornhuskers were content to contain Robinson on the ground and risk any aerial assault, but the heart of Michigan’s offense couldn’t muster much going 6-for-11 with 55 yards passing and churning out 46 yards on 10 carries.
He wouldn’t return to the game as gripping a football wasn’t possible due to his aggravation of nerve damage already present in his throwing hand. With 68 percent of Michigan’s offense on the sideline represented by Robinson, the Wolverines were staring at a near-impossible task. Their redshirt freshman quarterback had to direct a comeback win against a Bo Pelini-led defense in friendly confines that smelled blood in the water. It’s no surprise that they were unsuccessful.
Nebraska’s own Taylor Martinez also had a scary moment as he was sandwiched by Michigan defenders and was bent back on his ankle. He appeared hampered for several minutes, but as the game wore on, Martinez picked up his trademark speed. The California native had a serviceable evening going 14-for-24 throwing for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also contributed 57 yards on the ground.
With running back Rex Burkhead sidelined due to a knee injury, Ameer Abdullah turned in a banner evening with 101 yards on 24 carries (4.2 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Kicker Brett Maher earned his scholarship completing all three of his field goal attempts with a 51-yard long that sailed through the uprights.
Thanks to the Huskers’ defense, the loss marked Michigan’s third game of the year without a touchdown. Pelini’s crew was relentless after Bellomy stepped into the game as not only did usual defensive demons such as Eric Martin notch quarterback takedowns, but cornerback Ciante Evans also dropped the redshirt freshman.
Having struggled mightily with turnovers this season as evidenced by their -9 margin coming into the game (No. 144 nationally), Nebraska had to remain on the plus side of that battle for a chance to be victorious. Thanks to three interceptions thrown by Bellomy, the Cornhuskers ended the night with a +1 advantage.
With the win, not only is Nebraska bowl-eligible, but controls its destiny on the march to Indianapolis to play for their first conference title since 1999.
Despite Robinson’s absence in the second half amplifying Michigan’s troubles, the Cornhuskers’ defense clearly came to play against the No. 22 team in the land. Combine all of the above and you have a perfect occasion to hand out the coveted jerseys that turn “the Nebraska defense” into “The Blackshirts.”
Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation