Huskers look to learn from blowout loss, ahead of Friday tilt with Fighting Illini
LINCOLN, Neb - As they return to Big Ten competition, Nebraska suffered their worst loss of the year, falling to #2 Michigan 45-7.
Michigan out-gained Nebraska 436-305, while rushing for 249 yards and three touchdown's on Nebraska's nation leading run defense. Speaking with reporters post game, Head Coach Matt Rhule said a lack of effort was in no way a factor, but that Jim Harbaugh and Michigan may have wanted to flex some muscle on a stout Blackshirts group.
"I don't want to sit here and say our guys didn't play hard. That would be a lie on who they are," Rhule said. "They [Michigan] are the number two team in the nation.... We were the number one rush defense and rush offense, he [Jim Harbaugh] was going to try to come in here and send a message, he was going to try to come in here and rush for 300 yards on us. You don't stay the big dog of the Big Ten without sending messages like that."
For the third straight game, Kearney native Heinrich Haarberg got the nod at starting quarterback for Nebraska. He threw his first interception of the season, on Nebraska's second offensive play, ending his day 14-of-25 through the air for 199 yards and a net minus-two in rushing yards. He was also sacked four times.
The sophomore shouldered much of the blame for the Huskers offensive struggles, saying the offense needs to help out the defense.
"If we can learn from this, watch the tape, we'll see little miscues along the way for the offense," Haarberg said. "We can't keep putting our defense in those situations... They are a great defense, they've shown that, and I believe in those guys, but we have to put them in better situations as well."
Nebraska's lone score came in the closing minutes of the ball game when Joshua Fleeks, who just made the switch from wideout to running back this week, took it 74 yards to the house. That helped stave off the last Nebraska shutout at Memorial Stadium since the late 1960's.
As Nebraska looks ahead to a short week, taking on Illinois on the road on Friday, coach Rhule credits a strong Wolverines team, but doesn't want the team to accept the result.
"I hope it bothers them" Rhule said. "It bothers me. It bothers me a lot, but I don't want to minimize my credit for Michigan. I will say this, I love this team, they're great young men. We'll battle and we'll find out who we are Friday night. Hope everyone watches."
Additional notes from Saturday's loss, Nebraska out-gained Michigan through the air racking up 199 passing yard to Michigan's 187.... But, Nebraska's run game netted just 106 total yards, 74 of those on Fleeks' 74-yard touchdown. Michigan ran for 249.
Nebraska falls to 2-3 in the loss, 0-2 in Big Ten Play, taking on the Illini group on Friday night. That's A 7:00 p.m. central time kick, 6:00 p.m. mountain, on FS1.