Nebraska has this remarkable way of letting you know exactly what you’re about to see really early in games. Last time Nebraska was at home, a fumbled lateral on the first play set the scene for a bad loss to a bad Illinois team.
A fumbled lateral on the first play this time around (recovered, but still) set the scene for a bad loss to a bad Minnesota team.
The Gophers, 2-3 entering the day but inactive for the previous two weeks, were down 33 players as they made their way out of one of the worst COVID outbreaks the Big Ten has seen this season. The defense was one of the worst in the country at stopping the run, allowing more than 6 yards a carry on average to opponents. And yet they left Memorial Stadium with a 24-17 win over Nebraska.
Nebraska (2-5) lost the turnover battle 2-0. Minnesota won the field position battle. It won the time of possession battle. It won the “who can make the fewest back-breaking mistakes” battle. It won the Broken Chair Trophy in a battle to see which program was more broken.
Scott Frost has now lost 20 games in his first three years as the Husker head coach.
One of the game’s defining moments came just before the halftime break.
Because Frost had elected to take the ball to start the game, Minnesota was going to get it to begin the second half, and a 61-yard run on the first play of a Gopher possession that began with 2:57 on the clock had it looking like Minnesota might get the chance to double up.
A 1-yard run on first drew a Nebraska timeout. Frost clearly wanted to get the ball one more time before the break. The score was 14-10, in favor of Nebraska. You’re either getting the ball with a chance to extend a lead, or take it back.
A second-down throw was nearly picked at the goal line, but safety Deontai Williams couldn’t catch it cleanly.
A third-down try from Minnesota saw quarterback Tanner Morgan scramble and fall well short of the marker.
Fourth was coming up. Two minutes were still on the clock. Nebraska was going to force a field goal try, hold its lead, and get one more shot at points.
Then the booth triggered a targeting review on the Cam Taylor-Britt tackle that brought Morgan to the ground on third.
Taylor-Britt got tossed.
Minnesota scored two plays later to take a 17-14 lead.
Nebraska got nothing before the half.
Minnesota didn’t score on the opening possession of the third—no one scored, in fact, until early in the fourth—but the Huskers looked to have a little wind beneath their wings, a little life after an otherwise listless first 30 minutes, and the targeting/touchdown sequence felt like a body blow that left NU dazed.
Nebraska had 82 yards of offense in the third quarter. Minnesota wasn’t much better (4.4 yards per play) but isn’t that the theme of the season? When the defense stands up, the offense takes it as more of a crutch to lean on than a platform to build on.
The drive chart in the second half:
- A nine-play, 72-yard possession that had gains of 8, 11, 24, and 22 yards before ending in a missed field goal
- A three-play, 6-yarder that ended in a punt
- A three-play 4-yarder that ended with a fumble
- A five-play, 5-yarder that ended with a punt
- A nine-play, 38-yarder that took nearly three minutes off the clock when NU needed to be fast, featured a made field goal wiped away because of an offsides call on Minnesota, a touchdown wiped away because a holding call on Nebraska, and ended with a… wait for it… field goal
Hoping to build on a promising performance against Purdue, a 37-27 win, Nebraska sputtered again. Under Frost now, Nebraska is 3-8 in games following a win.
It’ll await the announcement of its opponent for next week’s Big Ten championship week slate. Nebraska is guaranteed one more game this season.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.