Lincoln, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - Jeremy Langford ran for 151 yards and three touchdowns and No. 14 Michigan State beat Nebraska 41-28 on Saturday to remain in first place in the Big Ten Leaders Division.
Langford might have carried the load but the Spartans scored 24 points off five Nebraska turnovers and used a fake field goal in the fourth quarter to pull away.
Punter Mike Sadler held on to the snap and picked up three yards for a first down, leading to Keith Mumphery's 27-yard touchdown catch to turn a six-point lead into a 13-point cushion.
"I told our football team at halftime, 'hey we are going to roll the dice.' I already made up my mind on that series, if we got within field goal range we were running the field goal fake 'Charlie Brown'. So that is what we decided to do, then when we got up there and it was 4th-and-1 and I thought maybe we should just go for it, but it was too late. It worked," commented Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.
Langford's third touchdown, on a 37-yard run, pushed it to 20 points and the Spartans beat the Cornhuskers for the first time in eight all-time meetings.
Nothing fake about that.
Michigan State (9-1, 6-0 Big Ten) won its sixth straight game since its only loss Sept. 21 at Notre Dame and extended its lead in the division to two games over Nebraska and Minnesota.
Connor Cook passed for 193 yards and the touchdown pass to Mumphery and R.J. Shelton rushed for a score in the win.
The Spartans play at Northwestern next week and at home against Minnesota on Nov. 3. A win in either of those games -- or one more loss my Minnesota -- would clinch the division and a trip to the conference championship game.
Tommy Armstrong threw for 143 yards with long touchdown passes to Sam Burtch and Kenny Bell but lost two fumbles that led to Michigan State touchdowns.
Ameer Abdullah rushed for 123 yards and caught a touchdown pass from Ron Kellogg late in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. Imani Cross ran for a 51-yard score for the Huskers (7-3, 4-2), who had a two-game winning streak snapped.
Cross slipped through the middle of the line untouched and outran the Spartans defense on his touchdown, pulling Nebraska within 20-14 in the third quarter.
But Armstrong fumbled a snap on his own 1-yard line later in the quarter and Michigan State recovered, taking a 27-14 lead on Langford's 3-yard run.
Bell, on a 38-yard touchdown catch, muscled Spartans corner Justin Williams and was falling back into the end zone when he made the catch to get Nebraska within six.
Nebraska celebrated a would-be interception by Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who jumped in front of Tony Lippett, but the Cornhuskers corner trapped the ball against the ground and the pick was overturned after a replay review.
Lippett had a 34-yard catch on the next Spartans possession and Michigan State faked the field goal four plays later.
Earlier, after a Nebraska fumble, Michael Geiger kicked a 45-yard field goal for a 3-0 Michigan State lead. The Cornhuskers also turned the ball over on their second possession when Armstrong was intercepted by Kurtis Drummond.
The Spartans punted after that giveaway, but took a 10-0 lead on Shelton's 5- yard touchdown run, which came after Nebraska fumbled a punt return.
Burtch was wide-open on the right side and went untouched on his 32-yard touchdown catch that got the Cornhuskers within 10-7 late in the first quarter.
Geiger kicked a 25-yard field goal 4 1/2 minutes into the second quarter and the Spartans turned an Armstrong fumble at the Nebraska 22 into Langford's 6- yard touchdown for a 20-7 lead at halftime.
"We lost the game because we made too many mistakes," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "Our kids played with heart. They played with passion. As a head football coach, that's all you can ask. We'll go fix some things that need fixed."
Nebraska is at Penn State next week and home against Iowa Nov. 29 to finish the regular season.