The Nebraska Cornhuskers could be playing to save their Head Coach's job the day before.
Behind a 100 yard rushing performance by Quarterback Mitch Leidner and a Husker offense that was close but couldn't make a play in the second half, the Gophers come back from a 21-7 Halftime deficit and leave Lincoln with a 28-24 victory against the Huskers on Saturday in the final game at Memorial Stadium this fall for their first victory in Nebraska in over 50 years.
Minnesota (8-3, 5-2 B1G), minus their home run hitting RB David Cobb for most of the second half with a apparent left leg injury, used 281 yards of rushing to come back after a wild second quarter to defeat Nebraska (8-3, 4-3 B1G) on Senior Day in Lincoln.
The game started off very shaky for Nebraska as starting SR Center Mark Pelini went down with a leg injury on the very first play of the game. On the same drive, Kenny Bell snagged a pass from Tommy Armstrong and went down inside the Minnesota 5, but slammed his head on the field and was very, very shaky coming up and helped off the field with a apparent head injury. Both players were in street clothes for the second half, Pelini on crutches.
The Huskers did open up the scoring with a Ameer Abdullah 2 yard TD run on the first drive of the game. Minnesota, however, answered right back with a 9 play, 71 yard drive that ended up with a Leidner QB sneak to make it 7-7 after the first quarter.
The Huskers had their way in the second quarter, scoring first on a Armstrong to Demornay Pierson-El TD pass that was almost a fumble, however Pierson-El did cross the plain of the goal with the ball. Then, as it looked like Minnesota was going to make it a 14-10 game, Randy Gregory and Nathan Gerry make a huge play.
That score made it 21-7 Nebraska, where it stayed that way after some odd timeout and playcalls into Halftime.
After the Huskers went 3 and out to start the 2nd Half, Minnesota got a TD on a David Cobb 17 yard TD run. That was Cobb's last play, however, as he went out of the game after that point. The Huskers did go down the field after the Minny TD, however they settled for a Drew Brown 30 yard Field Goal to make the score 24-14 Nebraska.
However, Minnesota got the ball and went straight down the field on a 10 play, 73 yard drive capped off by a Rodrick Williams TD run form 19 yards out to make it 24-21 Nebraska heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams traded punts in the fourth until Minnesota got the ball back with 8:34 to play and launched a 10 play, 80 yard drive capped by a Leidner 3 yard zone read keep into the end zone. That gave Minnesota their first lead of the day at 28-24.
Nebraska tried to drive down and take the lead with 3:25 to go in the game. They came close, however a pass from Armstrong to Jordan Westerkamp went over the receivers hands and Westerkamp appeared to come down awkwardly on his leg. On the very next play, Armstrong completed a pass to Pierson-El on the Minnesota 5, but he was stripped by Briean Boddy-Calhoun of Minnesota, giving the ball to the Gophers at their 4 yard line. Two Donnell Kirkwood rushes for a first down, and that was the ballgame.
The Huskers lost 2 turnovers on the day to Minnesota's 0. Nebraska ran for 174, passed for 223, making it 397 yards of total offense. Ameer Abdullah, in his final game at Memorial Stadium, had 98 yards on 20 carries.
For Minnesota, Leidner had 8 completions on 17 attempts for 135 yards. David Cobb had 80 yards on his 15 carries pre-injury.
The Gophers take on the Wisconsin Badgers next week in Madison to complete the regular season, with the winner taking on Ohio State in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.
The Huskers complete their regular season against the Iowa Hawkeyes next week in Iowa City, with a kickoff of 11am Central on Friday.