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Student demonstrators in the rainy weather protesting outside of Coffman Memorial Union on Tuesday.
Photos from April 23 protests
Published April 23, 2024

Struggles on offense show Nelson has much to learn

Minnesota went three-and-out seven times and was 1-for-13 on third downs.

LINCOLN, Neb. — Philip Nelson watched backup quarterbacks Max Shortell and MarQueis Gray guide Minnesota to its only two scores Saturday.

Nelson, a true freshman, was benched early in the fourth quarter after the worst performance of his young career.

“I think [the coaches] just wanted to have me sit back and watch a little bit and learn from that last quarter,” Nelson said.

“It’s embarrassing, but at the same time you hold your head high, and you learn from it.”

His play Saturday proved he still has a lot to learn.

Nelson finished the game 8-of-23 for a season-low 59 yards. He threw a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and his passer efficiency rating of 38.9 was a career low.

The running game didn’t help Nelson much. Minnesota ball carriers combined for 87 yards on 29 carries. The Gophers ran for 231 yards in their win over Illinois on Nov. 10.

Gray said Minnesota’s inability to run the ball Saturday was problematic for its run-heavy offense.

“That’s basically what our offense is … getting downhill and trying to get them yards,” he said.

The lack of a rushing attack, coupled with Nelson’s poor play, led to seven three-and-outs for Minnesota’s offense and little rest for the defense.

“Offensively we never got into a rhythm,” Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said. “Therefore the defense … probably got fatigued a little bit.”

The Gophers converted just one of 13 third downs and had the ball for nearly 10 fewer minutes than Nebraska.

Though Minnesota’s defense had additional pressure to stop Nebraska’s offense, Gophers safety Brock Vereen said “as a defense, it’s an opportunity.

“That’s what coach keeps preaching,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of those [opportunities].”

Injury note

– Gophers tight end Drew Goodger left the game in the first half with what Kill said is a dislocated shoulder.

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