ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw a left-handed, 5-yard shovel pass to Ameer Abdullah for a go-ahead touchdown with 2:03 left and Nebraska’s defense made enough stops to seal a 17-13 college football win over Michigan on Saturday.
The Cornhuskers (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) kept their chances alive of returning to the conference championship game.
The Wolverines (6-3, 2-3) dashed hopes of earning a Big Ten title for the first time since 2004 with their first loss in 20 home games under coach Brady Hoke, turning the ball over on downs during their last possession.
Michigan went ahead 13-10 on Brendan Gibbons’ 40-yard field goal with 8:08 left after Jordan Westerkamp fumbled on a punt return, then its defense allowed the Cornhuskers to convert a fourth down on a 75-yard, game-winning drive.
Abdullah ran for 105 yards and had an 8-yard TD on the ground that gave Nebraska a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Wolverines responded with 13 straight points, but failed to score more because they couldn’t open up holes for running backs or protect Devin Gardner.
Michigan was held to minus-21 yards rushing — a week after sinking to a school-record low minus-48 yards rushing in a loss to the Spartans — as Gardner was sacked seven times for the second straight game. The Wolverines didn’t rush for one first down.
Gardner was 18 of 27 for 196 yards and a TD, a 5-yard pass to Devin Funchess that tied the game at 10 in the third quarter. Running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green combined for 17 yards rushing on 17 carries for the Wolverines.
Armstrong was 11 of 19 for 139 yards and a game-winning TD on a third-and-5 from the Michigan 5. The drive was extended by Armstrong’s pass from the Michigan 31 to Kenny Bell, who broke two tackles to convert a fourth-and-2 with a 26-yard reception.
Westerkamp might’ve been the happiest guy in red at the Big House.
A week after Westerkamp caught Ron Kellogg III’s 49-yard desperation heave off a tip to beat Northwestern on the last play of last week’s game, he dropped a punt and Dennis Norfleet recovered it at the Nebraska 26 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Michigan, though, couldn’t do much with the opportunity because it lost 1 yard combined on two runs from Green and then Gardner scrambled for 4 yards on a play that was designed for a pass to set up Gibbons’ tiebreaking field goal.
Early in the game, Nebraska took advantage of Michigan’s struggling offense to take a 10-0 lead. The Wolverines had three-and-out drives on their first two possessions, losing a total of 19 yards, and the Cornhuskers answered both times with scoring drives.
Abdullah kept the first scoring drive alive with an 18-yard run on third-and-3 at the Michigan 30, setting up Pat Smith’s 21-yard field goal. The Cornhuskers didn’t need any third-down conversions on the next possession because they didn’t have one in an eight-play, 56-yard drive that ended in Abdullah’s 8-yard touchdown.
The Wolverines responded with a field goal on their first possession of the second quarter.
Michigan finished the half, trailing 10-0 with negative-10 yards rushing. It was the second game in a row that the Wolverines failed to reach positive rushing yards in the first half, and it didn’t get better after halftime, leading to their first loss at home since a Rich Rodriguez-led team got beat by Wisconsin on Nov. 20, 2010.