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Play of the Game: Minnesota’s Second Quarter Touchdown

October 13, 2019

Nebraska’s 34-7 loss at Minnesota was a beatdown from start to finish. Just like the Ohio State game, there wasn’t any one play that proved to be more impactful than the rest. When that’s the case, Play of the Game tends to shift towards identifying a play that encapsulates the whole game.

Therefore, this week’s Play of the Game is Minnesota’s 15-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

On the previous drive, a big gain by Wan’Dale Robinson was wiped away by a block in the back (runner-up for Play of the Game). Instead of setting up on first and goal inside the 5, Nebraska got pushed back almost to midfield. Two plays and 5 yards later, Nebraska was punting.

On Minnesota’s first play after a touchback, Shannon Brooks rushed for 25 yards. Gains of 8, 7, 15 and 10 pushed the Golden Gophers right down the field and into the red zone. On first and 10 from the 15, Minnesota lined up on the right hash with Mohamed Ibrahim next to Tanner Morgan in the backfield and a tight end to the boundary side and one receiver outside the numbers.

Morgan took the snap and handed off to Ibrahim to the short side of the field. Jake Paulson, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound tight end, shoved outside linebacker Alex Davis outside the numbers, right tackle Blaise Andries drove safety Marquel Dismuke back 5 yards, right guard Curtis Dunlap pancaked defensive end Deontre Thomas and cornerback Lamar Jackson stuck with his receiver downfield. That left a massive hole off the right side for Ibrahim to run through.

Will Honas, the inside linebacker to the boundary side, tried to shoot through the line to make the tackle and ran right into center John Michael Schmitz’s chest. The other inside linebacker, Collin Miller, tried to get over to the sideline to make the play but Dismuke got shoved back so far that he got pushed right into Miller, taking him out of the play as well.

The last line of defense was Jackson near the 2-yard line. As Ibrahim crossed the 10-yard line, Jackson saw what was happening and tried to come off receiver Seth Green to make the tackle. Jackson got low and tried to put his shoulder into Ibrahim, but Ibrahim got low as well and just ran Jackson over, falling into the end zone for the touchdown.

The score put Minnesota up 14-0 and ended up being the de facto game-winner considering Nebraska only managed one touchdown the whole game.

Before lining up in victory formation for the final two snaps, Minnesota had run for 236 yards on 47 carries. That’s 6.9 yards a pop. The Gophers had 10 chunk play runs, half of which went for more than 20 yards.

“We got pushed around on both sides of the ball up front,” Scott Frost said. “Made mistakes. Weren’t physical on the perimeter. We got pushed around a little bit tonight. Whether that’s a mindset, I don’t know. It’s disappointing.”

The Gophers gashed the Huskers with edge runs like that touchdown all night long. Defensive end Ben Stille said the Blackshirts got killed because they didn’t stay in their run fits all night. Nose tackle Darrion Daniels agreed, and said that was a big part of the perceived difference in physicality.

“It’s one of those things where once you get out of position it messes up everything,” Daniels said. “It messes up what people see. People get knocked out of position and it messes up everything. I feel as if, if everyone was in their proper fits it would have minimized a lot of the movement and we would have made a lot more plays.”

That being the case, when the Huskers watch the film, there will be plenty of clips where the Huskers, particularly the defensive linemen, got driven back whether they were in their fits or not.

“We need to be a more physical team,” Frost said. “We need to be a smarter team. I don’t like coaching a team that isn’t the most physical football team and we weren’t. I give them a ton of credit tonight. They were the more physical football team and we’re going to do whatever we have to to address that.”

On that touchdown run by Ibrahim, Nebraska had breakdowns at each level of the defense, with guys either out of position, getting out-physicalled or both. And it didn’t really get much better the rest of the night.

That’s why Minnesota’s second-quarter touchdown run is this week’s Play of the Game.

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