Best of the Decade: Wins against ranked teams

Categories: 2010s Football
Roy Helu
Roy Helu ran wild on Mizzou, rolling up a school-record 307 rushing yards.

The Huskers’ 58.1% winning percentage in the 2010s was the third-lowest in program history, but there was still plenty to cheer about. Here we look back on Nebraska’s nine victories over AP-ranked teams (based on gameday or final AP rankings). That was down from 12 in the previous decade.


                                    Gameday   Final
Date        Opponent       Score    AP rank   AP rank
                                    NU/Opp    NU/Opp
2010/10/23  @Okla. State   51-41    14/17     20/13
2010/10/30  Missouri       31-17    14/7      20/18
2011/10/29  Mich. State    24-3     13/9      24/11
2011/11/12  @Penn State    17-14    19/12     24/NR
2012/10/28  @Northwestern  29-28    NR/NR     25/17
2012/10/27  Michigan       23-9     NR/20     25/24
2014/01/01  ‡Georgia       24-19    NR/23     NR/NR
2015/11/07  Mich. State    39-38    NR/6      NR/6
2016/09/17  Oregon         35-32    NR/22     NR/NR

‡Neutral site

Taylor Martinez
Taylor Martinez rushed for 112 yards and passed for 323 yards and five touchdowns.

2010 Oklahoma State

Stellar play from quarterback Taylor Martinez and the special teams helped the Huskers win a 51-41 shootout against the No. 17 Cowboys in Stillwater. Alex Henery jump-started Nebraska’s opening touchdown drive with a 27-yard run on a fake punt from the Nebraska 22. In the fourth quarter, the Huskers iced the game with an 81-yard drive that consumed 6:23 and gave Nebraska a 17-point lead with under five minutes left.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Roy Helu
Roy Helu Jr. ran wild on Mizzou, rolling up a school-record 307 rushing yards.

2010 Missouri

Roy Helu Jr. scored on three long touchdown runs and set a school record with 307 rushing yards as the Huskers tamed the seventh-ranked Tigers in Lincoln, 31-17. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez left the game after taking a hit late in the second quarter and didn’t return. He would miss two of the Huskers’ four remaining regular-season games.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Nebraska defense
The Blackshirts limited MSU’s offense to three points and 187 yards.

2011 Michigan State

The No. 9 Spartans were the team with an NFL-bound senior quarterback, but the Husker defense shut down Kirk Cousins and the Michigan State offense in a 24-3 victory in Lincoln. Rex Burkhead scored all three Nebraska touchdowns and rushed for 130 yards.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Rex Burkhead
It was Rex Burkhead’s sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season.

2011 Penn State

Just days after the Jerry Sandusky scandal brought down Penn State coach Joe Paterno, the Huskers won a defensive struggle against the No. 12 Nittany Lions in State College, 17-14. Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead rushed for 121 yards, and linebacker Lavonte David helped seal the win by stuffing PSU’s Silas Redd on a fourth-and-1 run in the final two minutes.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Kenny Bell
Kenny Bell directs traffic en route to a first-quarter touchdown.

2012 Northwestern

Facing a 12-point deficit midway through the final period, the Huskers matched the largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history and edged Northwestern in Evanston, 29-28. Taylor Martinez led touchdown drives of 80 and 76 yards in the final 8½ minutes. The Wildcats were unranked at the time but earned a spot on this list with their No. 17 ranking in the final AP poll.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Ameer Abdullah
Ameer Abdullah had 101 yards rushing against the Wolverines.

2012 Michigan

The Blackshirts kept No. 20 Michigan out of the end zone, limiting the Wolverines to three field goals and 188 total yards in a 23-9 win in Lincoln. Michigan dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson left the game with an injury late in the first half. His replacement, Russell Bellomy, was intercepted three times by the Huskers and sacked twice.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Quincy Enunwa
Quincy Enunwa hauls in the pass on Nebraska’s 99-yard TD play.

2013-14 Georgia

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. connected with Quincy Enunwa on a 99-yard pass play, turning a dicey situation into the deciding score in a 24-19 Gator Bowl win over No. 23 Georgia. Armstrong’s heave, which put the Huskers ahead 24-12 with 4:58 left in the third quarter, came one play after he narrowly averted a safety that would have cut Nebraska’s lead to 17-14.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Postgame celebration
Players and fans celebrate after the improbable victory.

2015 Michigan State

Behind by 12 points with under two minutes remaining, the Huskers stunned No. 6 Michigan State with two late touchdowns for a 39-38 victory in Lincoln. The game-winner was a 30-yard pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. to Brandon Reilly with 17 seconds left, capping a 91-yard drive. Despite the loss, MSU was selected a month later for the four-team College Football Playoff.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Pierson-El punt return
De’Mornay Pierson-El sets up Nebraska’s late second-quarter TD with a 45-yard punt return.

2016 Oregon

Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s 34-yard touchdown run with 2½ minutes remaining lifted the Huskers to a 35-32 win in Lincoln over No. 22 Oregon. Nebraska trailed by 13 points before going on a 21-0 run in the second and third quarters. The Huskers benefited from Oregon coach Mark Helfrich’s decision to go for two points after every touchdown; only the first attempt worked.

Highlights & full game

HuskerMax game page

Game on DVD


Andy Janovich
Andy Janovich’s 55-yard touchdown run puts the 2015 Huskers ahead of Wisconsin with 3:38 left to play.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda ...

The Huskers had their chances to add to their total. Nebraska was 5-13 in one-possession games against AP-ranked teams (based on gameday or final AP rankings). Here are the 13 losses:


                                    Gameday   Final
Date        Opponent       Score    AP rank   AP rank
                                    NU/Opp    NU/Opp
2010/11/20  @Texas A&M      6-9      9/18     10/19
2010/12/04  ‡Oklahoma      20-23    13/10     10/6
2014/10/04  @Mich. State   22-27    19/10     NR/5     
2014/11/22  Minnesota      24-28    21/NR     NR/25
2014/12/27  ‡Southern Cal  42-45    25/24     NR/20
2015/10/10  Wisconsin      21-23    NR/NR     NR/21           
2015/10/24  Northwestern   28-30    NR/NR     NR/23
2015/11/27  Iowa           20-28    NR/3      NR/9
2016/10/29  @Wisconsin     17-23*    7/11     NR/9     
2017/11/04  Northwestern   24-31*   NR/NR     NR/17
2018/10/13  @Northwestern  31-34*   NR/NR     NR/21
2018/11/03  @Ohio State    31-36    NR/8      NR/3
2019/11/29  Iowa           24-27    NR/19     NR/?

*Overtime ‡Neutral site