For a half, it was fun.
Nebraska’s offense clicked early while still on the script, and the defense was dominating Minnesota. How dominant?
-15 yards rushing...and eight total yards midway through the second quarter. Yeah, things were looking pretty good. At halftime, the Gophers had made it up to 31 total yards with -7 yards rushing. Frankly, I don’t know if you could have asked for anything more from the defense.
And when word got out that Tanner Morgan wasn’t going to return after halftime, things were looking REALLY good. Then the second half began. Backup quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis took off for an eight yard gain on the first play, and the whole game just flipped. Kaliakmanis, who was dreadful in Minnesota’s losses to Illinois and Penn State, opened up the entire Gopher offense. He threw better than Morgan on this date, and his mobility ensured that the Huskers offense couldn’t key solely on Mohammed Ibrahim. Ibrahim had 18 yards in the first half, but 60 in the third.
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s offense got stuck in neutral, with only two first downs in the second and third quarters. Chubba Purdy looked OK running the script in the first quarter, but awful in the second and third quarters. And to be honest, Logan Smothers didn’t look any better in his third quarter series, going three-and-out just like Purdy.
But after Purdy threw an interception, Smothers got another shot, and actually made a little happen...mostly thanks to an incredible play by Marcus Washington that got turned into a catch by replay.
Marcus Washington my goodness!! pic.twitter.com/KLwvrUBmM6— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 5, 2022
That being said, Smothers wasn’t all that great either. On Nebraska’s final possession, Smothers airmailed a pass allegedly for Alante Brown...but looked more like it was intended for Goldy Gopher on the sideline. And that’s with about 20 yards of open FieldTurf in front of him. With well over a minute to go, time was not NU’s enemy, down and distance was. Smothers’ legs would have easily gained enough yardage for the first down and perhaps even more.
So with that, it’s on with this week’s report card, and as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: Purdy earned a solid B for his first quarter play, but it was all downhill from there. There’s an argument to be made for getting Smothers into the game in the second quarter, but that’s where I reflect that Smothers didn’t look very good last week either. Smothers made plays happen down the stretch, and has to pass up Purdy on the depth chart. I get why Mark Whipple preferred Chubba Purdy; no doubt that he’s the better passer in practice. But we’ve seen enough to recognize that Purdy can’t translate that to game speed at this point of his career. Smothers does translate his ability to game speed, and that’ll lift the overall grade to a D-.
I-Back: Anthony Grant was well on his way to an “A” performance in the first half, but he disappeared along with the entire offense. Hindsight is always 20/20, but when the quarterback is struggling, a solid running back is his best friend. Grade: B-
WR: Sooo many crucial drops, but let’s give Marcus Washington the credit for that highlight reel catch on fourth down that kept NU alive in this game. Grade: D
OL: Although the Gophers adjusted as the game went on, the offensive line has been better the last two weeks. Not great, mind you...but better than they’ve been earlier this season. Kudos to Bryce Benhart for hanging in there and earning his way back into the game at right tackle. Left guard Ethan Piper has become quite solid, and right guard Henry Lutovsky is probably deserving of more playing time. Grade: C-
DL: Let’s give new defensive coordinator Bill Busch a lot of credit for simplifying the schemes, and it starts up front. Colton Feist and Ty Robinson were beasts up front and kept Mohamed Ibrahim in check the entire first half. Sadly, it didn’t carry over into the second half when they had to also keep an eye on a mobile quarterback threat. Grade: B+
Linebacker: Ernest Hausmann shows his inexperience at times, but then shows you his playmaking potential a play or two later. The game seems to be slowing down a bit for him. Luke Reimer had a very solid game as well, as did Caleb Tannor. Grade: B
Secondary: Myles Farmer was all over the field on run support (14 tackles!), but it was a disappointing game in terms of pass coverage. More than once, a blown coverage let a Gopher receiver run free deep. Grade: D
Special Teams: Brian Buschini’s leg strength has returned, averaging an utterly absurd 55.5 yards per punt this week. He’s only a sophomore too; somebody get him an NIL deal stat. The only negative on special teams is the lack of returns...especially on the final punt of the day. Oliver Martin signaled a fair catch despite having minimal coverage charging him; he certainly could have gained some yards, and in that situation, every yard mattered. Grade: B+
Overall: D+ The first quarter was worthy of an A, but the third quarter became an F.
How would you grade the Huskers against Minnesota?
This poll is closed
A - Stopped watching at halftime to buy a chair
B - Listened to the radio in the second half while chair shopping
C - Could have played a lot better in the second half.
D - Didn’t finish after seeming to have the game under control at halftime
F - Failed to win. Again.