Conference woes? Minnesota loses to Nebraska 53-28

The Gophers remain winless on the road in Big Ten play under head coach P.J. Fleck.

The Gopher defense stops Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11.

Jack Rodgers

The Gopher defense stops Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11.

Paul Hodowanic

Nebraska was winless in its last 10 games, and Minnesota was looking for its first Big Ten win this season. The Cornhuskers saw to it that their streak ended Saturday.

The Gophers (3-4, 0-4) couldn’t overcome an early 28-0 deficit against Nebraska (1-6, 1-4) losing 53-28 on Saturday from Lincoln, Nebraska.

“We are not making good enough tackles, we are not big enough,” said head coach P.J. Fleck. “They were doing a great job of scheming us to put in a position where those people have to make tackles.”

Nebraska set the tone through the run game early, racking up 274 yards rushing in the first half, including touchdown runs of 40 and 59 yards by running back Devine Ozigbo. Quarterback Adrian Martinez also dominated the Gophers on the ground with a 53-yard run that set up a touchdown pass to Minnesota native J.D. Spielman to extend the Cornhuskers’ lead to 28-0 with 1:58 remaining in the first half. 

However, down 28, the Gophers didn’t quit. They scored on a 13-yard pass reception by Demetrius Douglas with under a minute remaining, and converting a two point conversion on a fake field goal, cutting the Nebraska lead to 28-8. 

The Gophers started the second half without starting quarterback Zack Annexstad, who did not return with the team after the first half because of injury.  

“Zack had an internal injury in his mid-section so they got him to the hospital,” said Fleck in his post game remarks. “I think as of right now he’s being released and he’s going to meet us over there at the airplane.” 

That left Tanner Morgan to pick up the pieces and mount a comeback. 

Morgan responded well, completing his first pass to Chris Autman-Bell for a 69-yard catch and run setting up the Gophers at the Nebraska 4-yard line. Two plays later, running back Mohamed Ibrahim punched it in from the 1-yard line. On the ensuing possession Seth Green scored from four yards out to cut the lead to 28-22, after a double reverse play set them up close again. 

The Gophers wouldn’t get closer than that, however, as Nebraska scored on its following drive extend its lead to 36-22. 

The Gophers kept fighting, but a failed fourth-down conversion at the Nebraska 3-yard line, and a Tanner Morgan interception at the Nebraska 7-yard line sealed the deal. 

Quarterback Adrian Martinez was the star for Nebraska, throwing for 276 yards and 3 touchdowns and running it for another 125 and a score. 

“I think he is one of the better players in the country already. He’s a running back who is an incredible quarterback. He’s so fast, he’s so quick, he’s bigger than you think and he can hurt you,” Fleck said.

The Gophers defense struggled overall, giving up season highs in 659 total yards, 383 rushing yards and 53 points. 

“That just can’t happen,” said linebacker Kamal Martin when addressing mental mistakes in the defense. “We’ll go ahead and fix that.”

Tanner Morgan did well in relief of Annexstad, leading the Gophers to start a small comeback. Morgan finished with 204 yards passing and an interception, plus 35 yards rushing and a touchdown.

 “I thought he did a great job coming out of the half,” Fleck said.

The loss kept the Gophers winless in Big Ten play this year and gave Nebraska and first year head coach Scott Frost their first win of the season. 

The loss also brought the Gophers’ record on the road against Big Ten teams to 0-7 since head coach P.J. Fleck took over in 2017. 

Minnesota will look to regroup next week as they take on Indiana (4-4, 1-4) at TCF Bank Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m.