Slow start stings Huskers; Minnesota wins 24-17

Nebraska City News-Press

Nebraska was unable to recover from a slow start, as visiting Minnesota worked its way to a 24-17 win over the Huskers on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

In a game that often lacked flow but featured few penalties and just one total turnover, Minnesota (3-3) took advantage of a tipped Luke McCaffrey pass that resulted in an interception by Tyler Nubin to set the Golden Gophers up with a short field. Four plays and 35 yards later, Minnesota took a 7-0 lead on a Mohamed Ibrahim 26-yard touchdown run with 7:26 left in the first quarter.

It was one of two passes attempted by McCaffrey after he entered briefly to replace starter Adrian Martinez at quarterback because of a minor issue. The Gophers added a 31-yard Anders Gelecinskyi field goal near the end of the first quarter to take a 10-0 lead to the second.

Nebraska (2-4) responded with a pair of touchdown drives in the second quarter to take a 14-10 lead with just under three minutes left in the first half. The first drive covered 75 yards in six plays, fueled by a 47-yard run by Wan'Dale Robinson. It culminated with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to tight end Austin Allen to cut Minnesota's lead to 10-7.

The Husker defense held Minnesota on the ensuing drive, before Martinez engineered a 13-play, 73-yard march that lasted five minutes and culminated with his seven-yard touchdown run to give Nebraska a 14-10 lead with 2:57 left in the half.

With momentum on their side, the Husker defense returned to the field looking for a quick stop to give the offense a chance to extend the margin before halftime. However, Minnesota had other ideas. On the first play of the Gopher drive, Cam Wiley sprinted 61 yards down the Minnesota sideline before Marquel Dismuke made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Husker 14. Nebraska appeared to make Dismuke's hustle hold up when Cam Taylor-Britt stopped Morgan after a four-yard gain on 3rd-and-14. But after Nebraska called timeout to save time on the clock for the offense to respond after an upcoming Minnesota field goal attempt, Taylor-Britt's hit was reviewed and he was ejected from the game for targeting. It was one of only three penalties called on Nebraska in the game, but Minnesota got a fresh set of downs at the Husker 7. Two plays later Morgan hit Brevyn Spann-Ford on a four-yard touchdown pass to give the Golden Gophers a 17-14 halftime lead. 

Minnesota made that lead stand, as both teams went scoreless in the third quarter, before the Gophers got a one-yard touchdown blast from Ibrahim on 4th-and-Goal with 11:26 remaining in the game to put Minnesota up 24-14.

The defenses exchanged stops, before Nebraska mounted its only scoring drive of the second half. The strange drive included a 37-yard Connor Culp field goal on 4th-and-4 that the Huskers chose to take off the board after Minnesota was called for an offside penalty. Three plays later, Martinez scampered 12 yards into the end zone for an apparent touchdown, before a flag for a holding penalty - NU's third and final penalty of the game - wiped that score off the board. Nebraska was forced to settle for Culp's 30-yard field goal to cut Minnesota's lead to 24-17 with 4:42 left.

But the Huskers were unable to stop Minnesota on its final possession, as the Gophers went 70 yards in nine plays and ended the game in victory formation at the Nebraska 5.

Nebraska managed 308 yards of total offense on the afternoon, including 197 yards on the ground and 111 through the air. Martinez led the Huskers with 15 carries for 96 and a touchdown, while going 16-for-27 passing with another score. Dedrick Mills finished the game with 12 carries for 50 yards, while Robinson finished with eight carries for 49 yards. Robinson added six receptions for 41 yards to lead the Husker receivers.

Morgan led a Minnesota offense that total 393 yards, including 212 rushing and 181 passing yards. He completed 17-of-30 passes while adding two carries for 10 yards. Ibrahim led the Gophers on the ground with 20 carries for 108 yards and two scores, while Cam Wiley added seven carries for 81 yards. Chris Autman-Bell led the Minnesota receiving corps with five catches for 82 yards.

Deontai Williams led the Husker defense with 10 tackles including one for loss and a pair of breakups. Nick Henrich added nine stops while Will Honas and JoJo Domann pitched in four stops apiece. Mariano Sori-Marin led the Minnesota defense with 18 tackles, while Nubin added seven tackles to his interception.

Game Summary

Minnesota 24, Nebraska 17

Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020

Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)

First Quarter (MINN 10-0)

MINN - 7:26 - Mohamed Ibrahim 26 run (Anders Gelecinskyi kick), 4 plays, 35 yards, 2:13, MINN 7-0

MINN - 0:14 - Gelecinskyi 31 FG, 9 plays, 36 yards, 4:37, MINN 10-0

Second Quarter (MINN 17-14)

NEB - 13:12 - Austin Allen 8 pass from Adrian Martinez (Connor Culp kick), 6 plays, 75 yards, 2:02, MINN 10-7

NEB 2:57 - Martinez 7 run (Culp kick), 13 plays, 73 yards, 5:00, NEB 14-10

MINN - 1:23 - Brevyn Spann-Ford 4 pass from Tanner Morgan (Gelecinskyi kick), 6 plays, 75 yards, 1:34, MINN 17-14

Third Quarter (MINN 17-14)

No Scoring

Fourth Quarter (MINN 24-17)

MINN - 11:26 - Ibrahim 1 run (Gelecinskyi kick), 9 plays, 39 yards, 3:55, MINN 24-14

NEB - 4:42 - Culp 30 FG, 9 plays, 38 yards, 2:51, MINN 24-17