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Nebraska’s Loss To Minnesota - Should Husker Fans Panic or Pump the Brakes?

Nebraska’s Matt Rhule era didn’t start like we all would have wanted, but maybe let’s pump the brakes a little on the doom and gloom

Nebraska v Minnesota
Head coach Matt Rhule of the Nebraska Cornhuskers looks on against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first half at Huntington Bank Stadium on August 31, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Thursday night marked the start of the Matt Rhule era at Nebraska. Things started off slow before Nebraska took control with a big third quarter — only to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory on the road against a solid Minnesota team.

Now, I know that many will lament that Nebraska is up to its same old tricks — untimely penalties, too many turnovers, can’t close games out, and why the hell were they giving the ball to our fumble-prone running back when all we needed to do was protect the ball and ice the game?

Watching yet another fourth-quarter collapse was certainly triggering for Husker fans, but I don’t know about you — I didn’t see too many people picking Nebraska in this matchup. Minnesota is established and they were at home against a team in the middle of a major transition with question marks all around.

Yet the Huskers still just lost by the slimmest of margins — 13-10 on a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

So, is it time to panic? Or should Husker Nation pump the brakes on all that?

Reasons to Panic


Quarterback Jeff Sims showed that he has some potential with his feet, but he sure left much to be desired through the air on Thursday night. His completion percentage wasn’t too bad at 58 percent, but he threw it to the other team three times. The real killer was his interception in the end zone to end the first half when Nebraska looked like they’d get a field goal at least.

Then, with a seven point lead, Nebraska hands the ball to Anthony Grant, a guy who’s been in the dog house for FUMBLING TOO MUCH in practice. Why they didn’t give it to Gabe Ervin there is beyond me. Ervin finished the game averaging 7.9 yards per carry while Grant was going for three yards per. Not only do I not understand giving Grant more carries in the game than Ervin (Grant with nine to Ervin’s seven), but at that point in the game? That one really hurt as Minnesota went down the field and tied the game after that.

Four turnovers — you don’t win football games doing that.

Pass Protection

Okay, maybe panic isn’t the word to use here. Nebraska wasn’t terrible in this department at Minnesota, but the Husker offensive line really let Sims down on that third-quarter drive where he was sacked three times. He needs better protection if he’s going to succeed this season, especially with his lack of weapons on the outside.

Slow Start

Starting games slowly and falling behind has been something that’s plagued Nebraska for some time, and that problem persisted in Minneapolis.

Up until their long drive at the end of the first half (that ended with an interception), the Huskers had a total of four first downs on offense. At the half, Nebraska had only run 24 plays to Minnesota’s 33. Luckily, Nebraska’s defense made just enough plays to keep the deficit at just 3-0 at the break.

Just Can’t Close Games Out

Much has been made of Nebraska’s inability to win these close games. Another one-score game, another heart-wrenching Husker loss.

I think it’s a matter of this team and these players continuing to work and improve and just learning how to win.

Let’s Pump the Brakes

Things were’t all bad for Nebraska in their season opening loss. Here are some things that can give us all a little hope.

Defense Played Well

Implementing a new 3-3-5 defense, Nebraska looked pretty salty at times. At other times, not so much. But for the most part, Nebraska’s defense looked pretty good.

The Huskers held Minnesota to just 251 yard of total offense. On the ground, Minnesota rushed for just 55 yards (2.2 yards per carry). Through the air, Athan Kaliakmanis showed his ability to make some really good throws, but the Blackshirts still held him to 54 percent completions for under 200 yards.

In addition to safety Omar Brown leading the team with seven tackles and an interception, Nebraska registered three sacks, including this one by the Polar Bear Nash Hutmacher.

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Husker defense is the reason this one was as close as it was.

Special Teams

No shanked punts. 100 percent on field goals and extra points. No crazy onside kicks.

Not only did Brian Buschini place all three of his punts inside the 20, the kick coverage team never let Minnesota out to the 20-yard line on three returns.

And one of the biggest plays of the day was Rahmir Johnson’s 65-yard kickoff return to start the second half — which led to Nebraska taking the lead two plays later on this play.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good I guess.

Oh well, onto the next on, but this Husker team needs to clean up its game fast — lest face the embarrassment of losing to Coach Prime’s Buffs next.

It’s the first game...Chill Out

There has never and will never be a coach that can be correctly judged off of his team’s first game. Not only that, but this game was against a solid opponent on the road.

I saw enough things that I liked Thursday night that I can see Rhule righting the ship. It’ll just take some time.