Before finishing out the last third of the season with three of the four games in Memorial Stadium, the Huskers travel north to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers who have not been kind to Huskers since Scott Frost took over.
After yet another gut-wrenching almost-but-not-quite finish, everyone knows what the Huskers are desperate for this week, but what is on the minds of fans of Minnesota? To help us with that, Tony Liebert of GopherHole.com was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
He offers his opinions on the non-stop PJ Fleck rumors, how the Gophers are dealing with the injury bug and where the Huskers might want to try hanging before and after the game - but play nice. Many thanks again to Tony and without further adieu, let’s go:
PJ Fleck’s name remains on the edges as a candidate for the USC job even if he is not necessarily in the top three. Do you see any scenarios where he ends up with that job? And along those lines since his name gets floated consistently with job openings, do Minnesota fans believe it’s a matter of when, not if, or do you believe he really has found a home and is committed to Minnesota for the long term?
Personally, I don’t believe that PJ Fleck is a west coast guy — from being born and raised in small-town Illinois, to playing for Northern Illinois in the MAC and then coaching at Western Michigan, I think he is a midwest guy through and through. There is a small crowd of Minnesota fans that fear he might leave at some point, but I would say the majority believe what he has said and believe that he and his family is fully committed to the Gophers. He knows that this program has won seven national championships and he wants to take it back to that level. The only jobs I would be worried about him leaving for would be Notre Dame or Michigan.
First Ibrahim, now Trey Potts – Minnesota’s worst enemy can’t even be wishing that kind of devastating luck on the Gophers. It appears freshman Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving is next man up and he does have a 15 carry 89 yard performance against Colorado under his belt. Is he ready for this and what kind of style can the Blackshirts expect from him?
Bucky or now Bucko (doesn’t want to be confused with Wisconsin’s mascot) Irving was a four-star recruit for a reason, and there is no reason why he cannot pick up where Ibrahim and Potts left off, running behind one of the best offensive lines in the conference. That being said, with Irving having only four collegiate games under his belt, I would expect redshirt-freshman Ky Thomas and redshirt-junior Bryce Williams to be seriously involved with redshirt-sophomore Cam Wiley possibly mixed in as well.
Minnesota goes with about a 70/30 run/pass split and Tanner Morgan has been throwing less than 20 times/game but down to a freshman 3rd string RB and Nebraska’s recent success against the run, do we see Fleck evening things out and going to the air more against the Huskers? Also, Minnesota is coming off of a bye week – can we expect a few razzle-dazzle type trick plays?
Gophers’ fans have been pleading for Fleck and the offense to open up the passing attack and playbook for their veteran QB. The Gophers’ two best wide receivers; senior Chris Autman-Bell and redshirt-sophomore Texas A&M transfer Dylan Wright are both expected to be 100% healthy at the same time for the first time this season, so one could only hope that Minnesota will lean more heavily on their pass attack this week.
Besides Morgan and Irving, is there a name on offense with whom Husker fans aren’t familiar but will be after Saturday? How about on defense?
Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Mike Brown-Stephens (nephew of John Legend) is coming off his best career game with 2 catches for 104 yards against Purdue. He is a player that Fleck has stated that he would like to get more involved more going forward. As for defense, Abilene Christian graduate transfer linebacker Jack Gibbens has only gotten better this season, and after a season-high eight tackles against Purdue, you should expect to see him a lot on Saturday.
There’s quite a bit from which to choose around TCF Bank Stadium as far as food and drink. For the Husker fan on the road looking for more than the “amazaing” Buffalo Wild Wings or Chipotle experience, what are some nearby local haunts a visitor should check out?
Sally’s and Stub & Herbs are the best gameday sports bar experiences, but I don’t know how fond they would be to see fans of the Cornhuskers.
Given all the years I spent dragging Omaha youth hockey teams to tournaments in Minnesota, I definitely have a soft spot for the state and the U (even got to watch Gigi Marvin and the then-freshman Lamoureux twins play once years ago). I’ll never forget being up there for the heartbreaking 2009 Big 12 title game loss to Texas when players, parents and coaches piled into a pizza joint to cheer on the Huskers against Texas and several different local families joined to cheer and feel our pain after loss.
But business is business and we’ve got a game to play – what is your prediction for a final score and who takes it?
Final prediction: Minnesota: 17 Nebraska: 23