Minnesota Football vs Nebraska: The Elite, The Meh & The Ugly
The Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-3) became bowl eligible on Saturday, beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-6) on the road in a hard-fought 20-13 victory.
Mohammed Ibrahim. 19 yards running. That was all Ibrahim had in the half. If you had started writing the obituary of his streak of back-to-back games with at least 100 rushing yards, I wouldn’t have blamed you. The offensive line did him no favors, allowing Nebraska to rack up six tackles for loss in the first half alone. But against the odds, Ibrahim finished the game with 32 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns, propelling the Gophers to victory and extending their hitting streak to 17 games. After the game, the ESPN broadcast caught him agreeing to take a photo with a kid in Nebraska gear, which speaks to his class and character.
Matthew Trickett. His season-long 47-yard field goal got the Gophers on the board late in their opening drive of the third quarter, before his now-season-long 49-yard field goal gave them the first advantage of the game in the quarter. quarter
Athan Kaliakmanis. The box score doesn’t tell the story (6-for-12 for 137 yards passing), but that was one hell of a performance from the redshirt freshman quarterback. Minnesota’s offense appeared to be toast at halftime, and Tanner Morgan was removed from the game by medical personnel after taking a big hit to end the second quarter. Kaliakmanis came in and provided an immediate spark, teaming with Ibrahim to lead the Gophers down the field for their first goal. Minnesota ended up scoring 20 unanswered points after Kaliakmanis took over.
The Gophers took advantage of his athleticism, allowing him to get out of the pocket. He ran the ball when he needed to, rushing for 27 yards on three attempts. Most importantly, Kaliakmanis connected with receivers down the field, including a 38-yard pass to Dylan Wright and a 45-yard pass to Daniel Jackson. You couldn’t have asked for much more under the circumstances.
Six straight three-and-outs forced by the Gopher defense. The first quarter was a disaster on both sides of the ball, later on, but the defense’s response is what kept Minnesota in this game and made the second-half comeback possible. Nebraska scored on its first two drives of the game before being forced to punt on the third. During that stretch, the Huskers racked up 144 yards of offense and were 4-for-6 on third downs. From there, the Gophers forced six straight three-and-outs, limiting Nebraska to 11 yards of total offense.
The Minnesota secondary. The Gophers didn’t have to face Nebraska’s starting quarterback Casey Thompson, and safeties signal callers Chubba Purdy and Logan Smothers aren’t very good (at least at this point in their careers). With that caveat out of the way, I was impressed with the way Minnesota’s secondary played, specifically how they limited wide receiver Trey Palmer to five receptions for 37 receiving yards. As a unit, the secondary limited the Huskers to 121 passing yards, with 64 of those yards coming on two receptions in the fourth quarter. Terell Smith also helped set up the game-winning touchdown with an interception.
Four straight wins over Nebraska. You love to see it.
An ignominious streak ends. Not long after Nebraska took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, one of the commentators called attention to the fact that Minnesota had lost 32 straight games when it was trailing by at least 10 points. That streak is now over.
Mark Crawford. Every Big Ten game this season, almost without exception, seems to be a reminder that Minnesota doesn’t have any player differences. Saturday was another mediocre game for Crawford, who averaged just 37 yards per punt. Conversely, Nebraska punter Brian Buschini seemed to turn the field on every opportunity, averaging 55.5 yards per punt. It makes it very difficult to win the field position battle when your punter doesn’t live up to his end of the bargain.
That first quarter. What a terrible quarter of football on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Gophers were getting hit at the line of scrimmage and couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Defensively, Minnesota wasn’t getting penetration up front and defenders were missing left and right tackles, allowing Nebraska to pick up plays in chunks. The Huskers finished the game with 146 rushing yards, and 106 of those came in the first quarter alone.
Head coach PJ Fleck admitted in his postgame press conference that defensive coordinator Joe Rossi effectively threw out his defensive game plan because the offense they had been preparing for from watching film of the game was very different from the offense that Nebraska offensive coordinator Mark Whipple was attacking them with. start the game
Minnesota’s offensive line. I’ll give them credit for playing better in the second half, but the first half was as bad as the Minnesota Movers have looked all season. They were abysmal in pass protection, as the Huskers rarely needed to run more than four to pressure Tanner Morgan, picking up three sacks in the first half. The Gophers’ offensive line was just as bad in the run game. Nebraska was more physical up front and was able to disrupt Minnesota’s offense at the line of scrimmage, recording six tackles for loss before halftime.
Tanner Morgan injury. Fleck declined to go into detail about Morgan’s injury other than to describe it as “an upper body injury,” which is the same language he used when Morgan suffered a concussion against Illinois. If the impact Morgan had before halftime saw concussion symptoms return, that’s not a good thing. Two concussions in less than a month is pretty bad. One has to wonder if he is interested in returning to the field this season.
The shenanigans at the end of the game. The game should have been over when Ibrahim rushed for a first down on 3rd-and-7 with three minutes left in the game. Minnesota called a timeout after the game clock ran down to 2:32, but as they were returning to the field, the replay booth decided to stop the game and review the previous play. The replay showed nothing even remotely close to indisputable video evidence that Ibrahim didn’t reach the first down, but the replay team decided to overturn the call anyway. Fleck elected to field the ball on fourth and short, despite the protests of an unusually animated Ibrahim.
On the Huskers’ ensuing drive, the clock operator at Memorial Stadium failed to run the game clock on a second down play, and the official never noticed or corrected it.
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