That felt good.
No slow start, and at least for a half, Nebraska looked like a legit Big Ten program. Arguably, the Huskers looked dominant on both sides of the ball, until Minnesota starting quarterback Zack Annexstad had to be taken to the hospital at halftime. (After being treated, he rejoined the rest of his team for the flight back to Minneapolis.) That injury could explain some of Minnesota’s first half struggles. And the change up to redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan running the option could also help explain the Gophers comeback surge.
Minnesota’s first drive of the second half could be explained away by badly misplaying a screen pass. I missed their second drive, taking my son down to the restroom. (I noted how quiet it was in the stadium while we were in there, and when I returned, my fears were confirmed as I saw the extra point.) But the Huskers settled down and finished the game strongly. How about that seven minute drive in the fourth quarter to prove that this team can, in fact, close a game out. Fans may have been nervous, but there was no banana peel this week.
659 yards of offense makes it clear that this program is significantly better than last year’s, even if the won-loss record indicates otherwise. I was worried last week that the collapse at Northwestern would take the heart out of this team, but we saw just the opposite. The Huskers are now fourth in the Big Ten in total offense and rushing offense, and fifth in passing offense.
So onto the report card; as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: Aside from that first series of the second half, Adrian Martinez was absolutely outstanding. My first take was to downgrade Martinez to a B for those freshman mistakes, but I took a step back and remembered just how good he was the rest of the game. Only four incompletions? 401 yards of total offense? That long toss to Stanley Morgan showed incredible touch; he knew the worst thing he could do was to overthrow him, so he lofted it beautifully and let Stanley leave the Gophers behind in their hole. Damn. This was the most efficient passing performance by a Nebraska quarterback since Keithen McCant in 1991. Grade: A
I-Back: If Nebraska wasn’t so insistent on getting Maurice Washington more touches, Devine Ozigbo easily would have gone for 200 or more yards rushing. I was waiting to see when both backs would line up in the backfield at the same time, and we got it this week. I’m pretty sure against Ohio State, we’ll see this multiple times, and the Buckeyes will be so focused on stopping either back that they’ll forget to cover Morgan or J.D. Spielman. If Ozigbo was the hero of the first half with his long runs, Washington was the hero of the second half, reclaiming the Huskers’ momentum with 22 and 11 yard runs after the Gophers cut the Husker lead to under a touchdown. Grade: A
Wide Receivers: Stanley Morgan has been overshadowed by J.D. Spielman for much of the season, though Morgan’s contributions might have been the most difficult. Some other receivers need to start getting involved in this offense at some point, though. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the outstanding downfield blocking by the receivers as well. Grade: A
Offensive Line: Prior to this week, the Gophers were fourth in the Big Ten in rush defense. Now they are eighth, with their average going from 121.5 yards per game to 158.9. The line has taken a lot of criticism in recent years, so you’ve always got to give them credit when it’s due. Grade: A
Defensive Line: Freedom Akinmoladun and Ben Stille had good afternoons. To me, though, the big statistic was holding Gopher running back Mohammed Ibrahim to just 49 yards on 18 carries, his worst game of the season. Grade: B
Linebackers: Mohammed Barry led with 11 tackles on the day, while Colin Miller added five more. Dedrick Young had seven tackles, but looked to be out of position on Minnesota’s 69 yard screen pass at the start of the third quarter. He was the guy on the spot, intercepting a deflected fourth quarter pass in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter that pretty much sealed the Nebraska victory. Grade: B
Secondary: Safeties Tre Neal and Aaron Williams played well IMHO. Ever since being benched against Purdue, Lamar Jackson seems to have started to figure some things out on the field. He’s playing much better now. No one really could cover Tyler Johnson, though. Grade: C
Overall: B+ The Huskers dominated most of the day, except for the latter part of the second quarter and the early third quarter. Perhaps we’re changing some of the perceptions of the Huskers. (Well, maybe not in Gooferland...)
How would you grade the Huskers victory over Minnesota?
This poll is closed
A - Awesome, Amazing, Absolutely What We’ve Been Dreaming Of!
B - Great offense, but some bumps on defense
C - Concerned about the defense, but we’ll take it.
D - Don’t think the Gophers are any good at all. This one doesn’t really move the needle.
Elsewhere in College Football
Ohio State: D- I’ve been suggesting that Michigan is the best team in the Big Ten the last few weeks. I won’t be alone in that assessment anymore.
Alabama: A Even the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t want ‘Bama.
Northwestern: F When is a win not really a win? When you have to scramble to beat Rutgers.