EAST LANSING–Michigan State football will take the field at Spartan Stadium this Saturday for the final time this year, hoping to leave Spartan fans with a win. Having lost six straight, it will be a chance for the Spartans to end their home campaign on a high note along with the senior day festivities. They’ll have to do it against Nebraska, a team that will come to East Lansing riding a three-game win streak and poised to take control of the Big Ten West.
The first question to ask of MSU is: Who will start at quarterback? Last week against Minnesota, redshirt freshman Katin Houser made his third start of the year. He played the first three quarters, completing 12 of 22 passes, before making way for freshman Sam Leavitt. When he took the field, Leavitt engineered a 75-yard drive to score MSU’s only touchdown of the contest and make it a one-score game. Though he would fumble the ball and throw an interception on his next two drives, Leavitt added some much-needed life to the Spartan offense.
While the offense couldn’t get much going last week, the MSU defense kept it close. The Spartan front line attacked early, forcing two fumbles in the first quarter along with Jaden Mangham’s interception in the third–his third of the year. Critically, they also kept Minnesota’s scoring to a minimum. The Spartan defense only allowed 10 points through the first three quarters, giving the offense a chance to respond. MSU will surely want to focus on taking advantage of the defense’s hard work this week, as the three turnovers only led to six points against the Golden Gophers.
The defense will go back to work against a Nebraska offense that is led by sophomore quarterback Heinrich Haarburg and redshirt freshman running back Emmett Johnson. Last week against Purdue, Haarburg threw for two touchdowns while Johnson had one of his own in addition to rushing for 76 yards. The Spartans will also have to contain Haarburg’s rushing ability–the quarterback ran for over 70 yards in Nebraska’s wins over Illinois and Northwestern. The Cornhuskers’ rush-heavy offense will test MSU’s front line, which will have a difficult time keeping up for all four quarters.
What’s propelled Nebraska through their three-game winning streak is their dominant defense, which has held the Cornhuskers’ opponents to under 14 points in each of their last three games. Last week they held Purdue to under 100 yards in both rushing and passing. Junior defensive back Tommi Hill will be a player to watch, as he came down with two interceptions to help keep Purdue’s offense at bay in last week’s win. The Spartans will have their work cut out for them as they try to get something going on offense while having to take on this lockdown Cornhusker defense.
With both defenses performing well as of late, Saturday’s contest is shaping up to be a gritty war of attrition. For Nebraska, it will look to stop MSU and get its fourth straight win as the Cornhuskers compete for the division title. For the Spartans, they’ll have some extra motivation as they try to send the seniors off with a win in their final home game in a tumultuous football season.
“It’d be awesome [to win on senior day,]” head coach Harlon Barnett said on Monday. “We definitely want to … send them out of Spartan Stadium as winners on their last home game.”
The game will start at 12 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4, and will be shown on FS1.