Minnesota came into the game planning to use a two-quarterback system, but after Philip Nelson impressed throwing the ball early, he was the quarterback whom the Gophers decided to ride to victory. Gophers head coach Jerry Kill, who suffers from epileptic seizures, was not part of the game plan on Saturday, meaning the credit for the creativity on the day goes to defensive coordinator and acting head coach Tracy Claeys.
The Gophers’ offense ended up gaining a total of 271 yards on the ground, and even when trying to drain the clock late, the Gophers were still able to run the ball effectively against the usually solid Cornhuskers defense. Although Nelson is a pass-first quarterback, he finished the game with just 15 pass attempts, but made the most of each completion as he compiled a total of 152 passing yards on the day to go with his 55 yards and two scores on the ground.
The bigger name for the Gophers on offense, however, was running back David Cobb, who rushed for 138 yards against the Cornhuskers and has been one of the best kept secrets in the Big 10 this season.
The Cornhuskers came into the game expecting to move the ball quite easily as quarterback Taylor Martinez was returning from his turf toe injury, but the senior finished with just 139 passing yards and a disappointing 16 yards on the ground. Martinez was likely still feeling the effects of the turf toe injury, but the bottom line is that he looked relatively unimpressive throwing the ball, and showed little mobility as he was sacked a total of four times.
The reason for the defensive dominance the Gophers displayed on Saturday was the play of highly-touted defensive linemen Ra’Shede Hageman. Hageman is projected as a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, and he showed why on Saturday as he continually made his presence felt in the backfield and finished the game with a sack as well.
The Gophers’ secondary also came up with a few key pass deflections throughout the game, which is a huge reason why the Cornhuskers were limited to just 23 points on the day, compared to the 34 the Gophers ended with.
The future looks bright for the Gophers, as they have now won two big conference games in a row, and get the pleasure of facing the 3-4 Indiana Hoosiers next week. The Cornhuskers won’t have any time to feel sorry for themselves however, as they face the previously ranked Northwestern Wildcats next before going up against the always tough Michigan Wolverines.