Haskins Up and Over (Michigan 32, Nebraska 29)

It's okay to feel however you're feeling.

It's hard not to get ahead of ourselves right now. But we've been here before.

Well, maybe not exactly here so often, but we've seen this script a few times. Michigan starts out the season strong, get some big wins, looks unbeatable, and by the end of the season (i.e. the Ohio State game) things come crashing back to reality. We've seen it before with Jim Harbaugh's teams in 2016, 2018 and 2019. The problem is, how can we tell if this iteration of one of Harbaugh's "up years" is the real deal? How do we filter out the indicators we missed before?

After the game on Saturday night, Cade McNamara was brutally honest with Molly McGrath on the field when he said previous Michigan teams would've lost this game. He was right, of course...clearly pointing at previous Harbaugh teams mentioned above.

In 2016, Michigan lost on the road at night to unranked Iowa 14-13. 

In 2018, Michigan lost on the road at night to #12 Notre Dame 24-17. 

In 2019, Michigan lost on the road at night to #16 Penn State 28-21.

Make all the comparisons you want, sure, but I'm not convinced any of those teams are better than the Nebraska team we saw on Saturday night. Joke all you want about Scott Frost (and we will), but he had those guys ready to play and they were primed for the upset. Walking out of that stadium with a win is something. Let's just leave it at that.


I have a harder time writing about big road wins than I do about any other kind of outcome. Maybe it's because they happen so infrequently, I don't even know how to process it? Maybe because of the sheer chaos of it all, especially in a back and forth game like we saw Saturday night with huge momentum swings and big plays on both sides? I like to try and find the meaning of it all...to try and figure out the emotions and how to translate all of that into words.

What happened at Nebraska was something. Sure, it's easy to write off the Huskers because of recent struggles or being unranked...but that is doing them, and this win, a real disservice. This was two good football teams going hard for 60 minutes. The momentum swings in big games at night are so impactful...and this game had a few.

The goal line stand in the first quarter which kept Nebraska off the board. Daxton Hill's spectacular interception. Mike Sanristil's amazing diving catch. Plays like those, plus a nice blend of the run and pass game, led to Michigan opening up a well-deserved, but slightly precarious 19-7 lead late in the 3rd quarter.

On the flip side, the redzone stalls, a mildly shaky downfield passing game, the almost punt fumble, the blatantly obvious McCarthy run-only package and the unbelievably horrible officiating, kept this thing from ever feeling like it was going to be a pull away comfy win. Despite the two score lead, this thing was always going to be close one way or another.

Martinez's 41-yard touchdown pass to Rahmir Johnson at 1:24 in the 3Q, the ensuing McNamara interception and the Martinez 13-yard TD pass to Levi Flack one play later gave Nebraska the 22-19 lead, and clearly all of the momentum. Memorial Stadium was on fire. Balloons were floating everywhere. Tom Osborne shifted slightly in his pressbox seat.

But what happened next is really the story of the game to me. 

After the Nebraska kickoff which went for a touchback, Michigan put together a 10-play, 75 yard touchdown drive, 7 of which were runs, capped by a 29-yard Blake Corum touchdown sweep. Not here to compare, but let's just say, I did not expect Michigan to do that.

But Nebraska answered right back with a touchdown of their own to make it 29-26 Huskers. Enter: Hassan Haskins. 

On 2nd and 3 from their own 25, in front of a defaning crowd, Haskins took a the inside zone handoff and quickly scooted through a huge hole and into the secondary, where he then went "up and over" according to Sean McDonough, the Nebraska defender at midfield, and then managed to go for another 25 yards. It wasn't a scoring play, but it definitely will be one of the plays we'll all remember when we think of Nebraska 2021. To me, it solidified this teams identity as a run-first offense. I think we've all seen in these past two games that we have a serviceable passing game when we need it, but it's all about these running backs and this offensive line. Much like how Jourdan Lewis' INT against Wisconsin in 2016 became one of the trademark plays of that season, that's how I feel about Haskins' run last Saturday. It was a clutch play in a crucial situation that Michigan absolutely needed to have, and he delivered.

The result of the drive was a 31-yard Jake Moody field goal which tied it up at 29.

Then, it was the defense's turn to add their own trademark play.

We'll never know if Nebraska was going to march down the field on tie the game or take the lead, but they just had scored 3 touchdowns in a row and were showing no signs of slowing down. Michigan's defense seemed way out of sorts by that point and had no real answer for Martinez's playmaking ability. But then Brad Hawkins stepped up on 3rd and 1, when Martinez took a designed run up the middle to get the one yard. He got passed the line to gain, but quickly hit the wall of defenders, one of which was Brad Hawkins who was able to strip the ball and return it 19 yards to the Nebraska 18 yard line. A crucial play for the defense at a time when they need one the most. A play that ultimately would go on to win the game when Jake Moody, who gets the game ball this week, nailed a 39-yard field goal with his patented slight hook, to give Michigan the 32-29 lead with 1:24 left.

With momentum now on Michigan's side, they were able to hold Nebraska on their ensuing drive to just the one big play...a 25-yard Marinez pass to Toure which set the Huskers up nicely at midfield after just one play. From there though, Michigan locked them down forcing 3 incomplete passes and preserving the 3 point win.

We all had a moment of terror however, when the flag was thrown for taunting after Dax Hill defended the 4th down pass to Toure. Thankfully, it was a dead ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that was enforced AFTER the play, rather than during...shades of Morgan Trent vs Ohio State in 2006.

So, Michigan's second impressive road win in as many weeks. Now we have two weeks to enjoy it, bask in the glow of being 6-0, and for some of us, to try and decipher what this all means and whether or not this Michigan team is for real as we head, in all likelihood, toward a halloween eve showdown in East Lansing with an undefeated top 10 Michigan State team.

I remember thinking to myself when it was 22-19 and Nebraska had just scored back-to-back touchdowns that THIS is when we're finally going to find out just how good this Michigan teams really is. Well, I think we found out. 

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