Questions from the other side: Parker Gabriel

Lincoln Journal Star football reporter Parker Gabriel gives a preview of the Huskers.

Nick Jungheim

To preview the Gophers’ upcoming game against Nebraska, the Minnesota Daily chatted with Parker Gabriel of the Lincoln Journal Star.

Leading into the game, the top story line is the health of quarterback Adrian Martinez and wide receiver J.D. Spielman. What’s the latest on those two?

Neither of them are seriously injured, which obviously that’s good news for Nebraska. We know that Adrian Martinez didn’t practice on Monday. We weren’t able to see at the end of practice [Tuesday] whether he practiced but we know Adrian Martinez didn’t practice on Monday. If he can’t play, Noah Vedral, who’s a sophomore, will be the starter. As for J.D. Spielman, he was walking better than Martinez after the game on Saturday against Northwestern. He was limping but that didn’t seem like a serious injury from the start. We don’t know exactly what his status is but on the surface it certainly appeared that his injury was not as serious as Adrian Martinez’s.

Regardless of whether Spielman and Martinez play, who are some other guys to watch for on Nebraska’s offense?

At this point, you start with true freshman Wan’Dale Robinson. He plays what we call the “Duck R,” it’s sort of that position that Chip Kelly made famous at Oregon with guys like De’Anthony Thomas. It’s a slot basically; he’s a receiver/running back. He’s seen his touches. He had 17 total touches in Nebraska’s first three games and in their last three he has 51 touches. His usage has really been increased, he’s made a lot of big plays. He is really hard to tackle in space and he’s got pretty good speed.

What’s Nebraska’s defensive gameplan to stop Minnesota’s offense?

It’s two-fold. Nebraska has a lot of confidence in its secondary which is a change from recent years. This is the best secondary that Nebraska’s had at least in the past three or four years. They really like their corners, senior Lamar Jackson and junior Dicaprio Bootle. Their safety play has been more consistent the last couple of weeks. I think Nebraska they think they can hold up in the secondary against a really talented Minnesota set of receivers. The pass rush is of vital importance. If Tanner Morgan has time to sit and survey, you’re not just going to cover Rashod Bateman for four seconds. I think the pass rush is important for Nebraska, it’s been hit-or-miss. There have been periods where they’ve gotten good pressure and there have been swaths of games too where they haven’t.

What are the keys for Nebraska if they are going to win on Saturday?

I think the turnover battle, that’s nothing new. When Nebraska beat Illinois on the road by four points but had to come from behind, between that game and then the loss to Ohio State, Nebraska turned the ball over seven times and I think they only forced one. So minus six over two games, that’s very rarely going to get it done. Last week, they played their first turnover-free game of the season against Northwestern. They only forced one but it came with a minute left to set up the game-winning drive.

What do you make of the job head coach Scott Frost has gone at Nebraska so far and how close are the Cornhuskers to competing for a Big Ten title?

Scott Frost said you’re never as far along as you want to be. It really depends on how you look at it. Nebraska started 0-6 last year, first time in school history in Scott Frost’s first season. Minnesota last year was Frost’s first win here. Beginning with that game, they’re 8-4 since then. With the offense at times looking prolific, but it’s been inconsistent to where people don’t feel great about where they’re at right now, even though they’ve already matched their win total from the last two seasons. I don’t know if they will challenge for the West Division this year. I think this week will go a long way towards determining that.

 Speed Round:

1. Best offensive player: Wan’Dale Robinson, receiver

2. Best defensive player: Cam Taylor-Britt, defensive back

3. Under-the-radar player: Collin Miller, linebacker

4. Nebraska’s final record: 7-5

5. Game prediction: 28-27 Minnesota