EAST LANSING, Mich. — No one was harder on Brett Maher than he was on himself after he missed a 30-yard field goal wide right early in the second quarter of Saturday’s Nebraska-Michigan State game.
The Husker kicker’s frustration was visible only on his face — there was no helmet-throwing or water-cooler kicking when he returned to the bench. He simply put on his sweatpants and shook his head.
NU head coach Bo Pelini twice looked Maher’s direction. Pelini looked as if he was about to say something to the senior from Kearney, Neb., on his second glance toward the bench, but he stopped himself because Maher was looking for something on the bench.
With several people watching him, including ABC sideline reporter Quint Kessenich, who checked back to watch Maher after several plays, Maher just focused on his next opportunity, sending several practice punts and kicks into a net. The next time he stepped onto the field, Maher had a 51-yard punt.
Tight quarters behind bench
Not since the days of playing games at Oklahoma State have the Huskers had to deal with such tight quarters on the sidelines.
There was plenty of traffic less than five feet from most of the Husker players. There was the usual back-and-forth by members of the print and electronic media, but some other passers-by made a few Nebraska players do double takes.
Members of the Michigan State band had to line up at least two-deep in the limited space between the stadium wall and the benches where players would sit for huddles with coaches. Another character who had to travel north and south a few times was MSU mascot Sparty, who traded high-fives with media members and others outside of the bench area.
Physical game for band, too
Also on the east sideline was the Nebraska marching band. Band members performed during the pregame and halftime festivities, and a few members had some of the on-field action end up in their laps.
Members of the trombone and piccolo/flute sections had players land in their laps. Michigan State running back La’Veon Bell knocked a few trombone players backward after he was forced out of bounds in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, NU receiver Jamal Turner ended up in the second row of flutists after catching a 19-yard pass from Taylor Martinez and absorbing a Michigan State hit that resulted in a personal foul penalty. No one was injured on either play.
Red and green tailgating
Contrary to reports more than three hours before the game, there was plenty of spirited tailgating action going on in the areas surrounding Spartan Stadium.
At several stops, Michigan State and Nebraska fans were trading stories and playing games together. Some were knocking bowling pins over by throwing a football at them from about 30 feet away.
Former head Buffalo in Husker territory
Here’s a sight that less than a decade ago would have been unthinkable — Gary Barnett smiling and laughing before a game on the Nebraska sideline.
Since 2006, the former Colorado football coach has been a color commentator for Sports USA Radio Network. Barnett was chatting with NU wide receivers coach Rich Fisher and others during pregame warmups. Fisher played for Colorado in the early 1990s, when Barnett was an assistant under Bill McCartney.
Hurry it up, will ya?
Fisher also got a little extra attention from the head linesman during a Michigan State timeout.
The Spartans had called a 30-second timeout, and the officials were blowing their whistles to signal the teams to return to the field.
It took several tweets to break up the Nebraska huddle and get the Huskers back on the field. Head linesman Michael Dolce firmly but politely delivered a message to Fisher, who nodded that the message was received.
Stadium steeped in tradition
It doesn’t have the regal air of Ohio Stadium, or make you feel as if you’re enjoying a picnic near the lake as you do at Northwestern’s Ryan Field, but Spartan Stadium has that unmistakable feel of Big Ten history and tradition.
Halftime featured a rousing show by the Michigan State band, highlighted by an Elvis impersonator. There’s not a bad seat in the stadium, and plenty of fans were close enough to bark at Nebraska players from the rows behind the bench.
A Ring of Fame features names from Michigan State’s storied past, including former Spartan coaches Clarence “Biggie” Munn and Duffy Daugherty in the west stadium and former players Gene Washington and Bubba Smith on the east side.
Michigan State honors Osborne
Retiring Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne was saluted during a break in the first quarter and presented with a wrapped gift by Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis.
During the presentation, the Spartan Stadium public address announcer noted that Osborne succeeded Saginaw, Mich., native Bob Devaney as Nebraska football coach in 1973. Devaney served as an assistant for both Munn and Daugherty at Michigan State before becoming the head coach at Wyoming, his last stop before coming to Nebraska.
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