Five Takeaways: Nebraska Edition

Taking a look at the five things learned Saturday night in Michigan State's 27-22 win against Nebraska -- such as how much more can Aaron Burbridge be for this offense?

1. Connor Cook needs more consistency

It was an interesting game for Cook, who had some NFL-caliber throws that naturally would have scouts drooling. On the other hand, he had some really bad throws that would have NFL scouts reeling. It was just the second time in since he became the starter that he had a completion percentage lower than 50 percent – both times against Nebraska. He did enough to win Saturday, but that was thanks to a stellar performance from the defense. He needs more consistency in Big Ten play for this team to take off.

2. Aaron Burbridge can be a lot more in this offense

Burbridge had just two catches for 37 yards in the game, one being a difficult one in traffic, but it was a pair of plays that he almost made that showed the player he can be. They came back-to-back in the second quarter as Cook threw a pair of passes down the sideline to him. The first was in between defenders, Burbridge dove and almost reeled it in. The second he went up over a defender to reel it in, but was called out of bounds – barely. Those are plays he is capable of making and being a difference maker for the offense opposite Tony Lippett.

3. The run defense is still as nasty as ever

Michigan State admittedly was fueled by comments made last season by Bo Pelini saying Nebraska has run on MSU before and will do it again. The Spartans took that to heart and came out and showed that is not the case. Michigan State ranks fourth in the nation in run defense, allowing fewer yards per game and per attempt than a season ago. It was a nasty showing, holding Ameer Abdullah to just 45 yards on 24 carries.

4. Healthy again, this is a solid offensive line

With Connor Kruse back in the mix, the Spartans are playing much better up front. It also looks like Travis Jackson is more healthy. Throw in Jack Allen’s return this week and it was a very strong showing up front. The OL did not allow a sack and Nebraska recorded just one quarterback hurry – as defensive end Randy Gregory was held mostly in check. The Spartans still will want more from the run blocking, as there were a pair of third downs that could have iced the game if converted, but all-in-all, it was a good showing.

5. It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish

Michigan State, it seemed, should have won 40-0. A play here or a play there and the score and the finish look a lot different. For example, if Kurtis Drummond makes an interception that went right through his hands and returns it, Michigan State probably wins 36-9 or so. Instead, it looks like Michigan State struggled a bit based on the score and even the final stats, even though it was a game they dominated. Lesson learned by the Spartans? They said so after the game.

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