LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Michigan’s problems after its 23-9 loss to Nebraska go beyond losing control of the Big Ten Legends Division race.
The 20th-ranked Wolverines also lost quarterback Denard Robinson, who went out late in the first half with an elbow injury.
Robinson, who spent the second half on the sideline in an overcoat, watched as freshman backup Russell Bellomy threw three interceptions.
Robinson has accounted for two-thirds of Michigan’s offensive production this season, and the Wolverines were lost without him. Coach Brady Hoke said Robinson aggravated a nerve injury in his right elbow when he was tackled late in the first half.
“When he hit it, he hit it the wrong way,” Hoke said.
Hoke said Robinson couldn’t grip the football after he was hurt. The coach gave no additional details.
The Huskers (6-2, 3-1) moved into a first-place tie with Michigan in the Legends but own the tiebreaker.
Michigan (5-3, 3-1) generated a season-low 188 yards during its first visit to Memorial Stadium since 1911. The Wolverines had 52 in the second half.
“This was a big step for us,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “Just like I told the team, you win and the season goes on and it takes you higher and higher.”
Asked about being in the driver’s seat in the division heading into the next game at Michigan State, Pelini said, “I don’t buy into any of that.”
It was the second straight game Michigan failed to score a touchdown.
“When you count on field goals and get into the red zone and don’t score (touchdowns), that will hurt you in a big game. That’s what happened,” Hoke said.
Added receiver Roy Roundtree: “You have to give credit to Nebraska because they held us to nine points. We have to come together as an offense and score. We need to score and move the ball.”
Taylor Martinez was 14 of 24 for 166 yards, with an interception for the Huskers. Bellomy was 3 of 16 for 38 yards.
Bellomy was off target on his first 10 passes, and two of his interceptions resulted in 10 Nebraska points. Daimion Stafford picked off his underthrown ball early in the fourth to set up Abdullah’s 12-yard touchdown run for a 23-9 lead.
Abdullah, filling in for the injured Rex Burkhead, went over 100 yards for the fourth time this season.
“In the second half, especially late in the third quarter, we didn’t tackle well as a defense,” Hoke said. “When you don’t tackle well in a big game, it doesn’t go well.”
Brett Maher kicked field goals of 19, 51 and 31 yards, with his last one putting Nebraska up 16-6 in the third quarter.
Michigan got within 16-9 late in the third quarter on Brenan Gibbons’ 38-yard field goal. The Wolverines moved 58 yards on the series, but 45 of them were the result of Nebraska penalties.
Josh Mitchell was called for a high hit on Roundtree, the Nebraska bench was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and Andrew Green interfered with Roundtree on a pass to the end zone.
The Huskers were penalized eight times for 104 yards.
Nebraska led 7-6 after a defense-dominated first half.
The Huskers broke through for a touchdown early in the second quarter, with Martinez needing only a couple minutes to move his team 72 yards. Nebraska had netted just 8 rushing yards on its first six runs, so offensive coordinator Tim Beck called on Martinez to pass on five of the six plays.
He hit Ben Cotton for 15 yards, Jamal Turner for 12, Quincy Enunwa for 5 and Stephen Osborne for 19 before going downfield to Kenny Bell. Bell almost stopped while waiting for the ball to arrive along the sideline, then he turned and dived for the pylon to finish the 32-yard touchdown.
Gibbons finished the next two Michigan drives with field goals of 52 and 24 yards to make it a one-point game.
Robinson ran for 46 yards on 10 carries and completed 6 of 11 passes for 55 yards before he got hurt.
The game was billed as the second meeting ever between quarterbacks who each have 5,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing in their careers. The first such game matched Texas’ Vince Young against Missouri’s Brad Smith in 2005.
The Huskers have won 11 straight night games at Memorial Stadium and are 37-5 under the lights in Lincoln since 1986.
Nebraska commemorated the 50th anniversary of its NCAA-record sellout streak. Saturday’s game was the 323rd in a row.