- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Big Ten East is still there to be won for Michigan State. As for a spot in the College Football Playoff, that appears to be in serious jeopardy after the sixth-ranked Spartans lost 39-38 in stunning fashion to Nebraska.

Tommy Armstrong drove the Cornhuskers 91 yards in the final minute, hitting Brandon Reilly with the 30-yard winning touchdown pass that withstood a video review with 17 seconds left on Saturday night.

The Spartans won’t soon forget how Reilly went out of bounds and came back in to make the catch. Officials ruled it was legal because cornerback Jermaine Edmondson forced him out. Others will disagree.

“Controversial play at the end, but they should have never been down there in the first place,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said.

“I got an explanation. They said the receiver was pushed out. Everybody saw the replay. That’s not my job.”

Linebacker Darien Harris said the officiating didn’t cost the Spartans the game.

“We can only control what we can control, and that’s making plays out there, and what the refs call whether it’s in our favor or not is out of our control,” Harris said.

A request for comment from the Big Ten about the call wasn’t immediately returned after the game.

Armstrong, who missed last week’s embarrassing loss at Purdue because of a foot injury, rallied the Cornhuskers (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) from 12 points down in the last 4 ½ minutes for the largest fourth-quarter comeback in program history.

The ending overshadowed the performance of Michigan State’s Connor Cook, who threw for 335 yards and matched his career high with four touchdown passes.

“Just disappointed,” Cook said. “Obviously we were so close and we had the game in our hands and to see it just ripped away like that in that short amount of time, it hurts.”

Armstrong ran for a short touchdown with 1:47 left to make it 38-33. After Michigan State (8-1, 4-1, No. 7 CFP) went three-and-out, he led the drive that defines his career so far.

“We’re going to collect ourselves and understand that our destiny is in our hands,” Dantonio said. “We control our own fate in terms of winning the (Big Ten) East and that’s the thing we’ve got to focus on.

“Disappointing the way it worked out at the end, of course, and it shouldn’t have, I guess.”

Starting at his own 9, Armstrong hit Jordan Westerkamp for passes of 28 and 33 yards. Two plays later, he found Reilly for the winning score.

The Spartans got a final chance, but Cook passed out of bounds from the Nebraska 41 as time ran out.

Nebraska’s sideline cleared, a season full of pent-up frustration playing out with players and coaches at midfield dancing as the music blared. The Spartans walked slowly toward their locker room.

The first five of the hard-luck Huskers’ six losses came by a total of 13 points, with the initial one against BYU coming by way of a Hail Mary.

“I don’t know if you call it justice or not,” first-year Nebraska coach Mike Riley said when asked if the Huskers were due for a break. “The kids earned this win tonight. It’s like every game we lost that came down to the wire. Those things are so haunting. We made the plays to win the game and, boy, were those big plays.”

The Huskers played strong throughout against the Spartans, but it didn’t look as if it would be enough. Michigan State used a drive that lasted almost 9 minutes of the fourth quarter to go up 12 points. The Huskers weren’t done.

Cook completed 22 of 35 passes and Gerald Holmes ran 20 times for 115 yards. Cook’s four TD passes gave him a school-record 68 for his career, two more than Kirk Cousins had from 2008-11.

The Spartans, who came into the game off an open date, had not been very sharp in winning its first eight games. They beat two of the weakest Big Ten teams, Purdue and Rutgers, by narrow margins and needed the play of the year from Jalen Watts-Jackson to beat Michigan on a last-second botched punt. Even in its previous game, a 52-26 win over Indiana, Michigan State led just 28-26 entering the fourth quarter.

This time they couldn’t finish.

“I think it is on us as leaders to make sure the team understands that we do control our own destiny,” Harris said, “and we’re going to be measured most importantly on how we bounced back from this.”

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Online:

AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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