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Nebraska spoils Gophers’ homecoming

Minnesota lost its 15th straight game to the Huskers.
Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead applies a strait arm to Gophers defensive back Michael Carter Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. The Huskers defeated the Gophers 41-14.
Image by Mark Vancleave
Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead applies a strait arm to Gophers defensive back Michael Carter Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. The Huskers defeated the Gophers 41-14.

The Huskers were sharks amid a sea of red at TCF Bank Stadium, and the Gophers were the seemingly helpless victims that sank 41-14.

Playing in front of a homecoming crowd that contained more red shirts than maroon and gold, Minnesota lost its 15th straight game to the Huskers.

Nebraska, led by head coach Bo Pellini, played a tough game in the first half and used the second half as practice. After running the ball down MinnesotaâÄôs throat for the first 30 minutes, it threw deep fade routes and toyed with the GophersâÄô defense in the second half.

âÄúI thought it was a pretty complete effort, especially in the first half. In the second half we played a little bit differently, a little bit by design,âÄù Pellini said.

The Huskers dominated the Gophers in a business-like fashion as though they were playing a high school team, while chants of âÄúGo Big RedâÄù were shouted from the crowd. Nebraska exposed the GophersâÄô lack of size, speed and playmaking ability all afternoon.

NebraskaâÄôs running attack was led by Rex Burkhead, who ran for 117 yards and a touchdown..

Minnesota committed penalties, turnovers and played poorly overall.

âÄúOur weakness today was the mental part of it,âÄù head coach Jerry Kill said. âÄúWhen you fumble, snap on the wrong count, jump offsides, we canâÄôt overcome that.âÄù

Quarterback MarQueis Gray threw for only nine yards in the first half. He completed nine passes for 122 yards overall with zero passing touchdowns and three fumbles. He gained 54 of those yards and completed five of those passes on the final drive against NebraskaâÄôs second-team defense.

âÄúBefore he can step up, heâÄôs got to learn how to play the quarterback position,âÄù Kill said. âÄúWe need MarQueis to get some reps.âÄù

Max Shortell, who has traded quarterbacking duties with Gray, did not play Saturday.

The highlight of the afternoon for the Gophers was a double reverse flea flicker for a 53-yard completion from Gray to DaâÄôJon McKnight. That set up MinnesotaâÄôs first score, when Gray stumbled into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run after he recovered his own fumble.

Gray lifted his arms and shimmied after the score and relished one of his few opportunities to celebrate.

MinnesotaâÄôs defense played strong to begin the game. It held Nebraska to a field goal on the opening drive âÄî the first time it has held an opponent from scoring a touchdown on the opening drive since playing North Dakota State on Sept. 24.

The GophersâÄô defense then held Nebraska to a fourth-and-1 on the next drive, but a controversial play in which Nebraska fumbled the ball forward rewarded the Huskers with a first down.

âÄúThat was a critical play. Mentally, our kids didnâÄôt come back from that,âÄù Kill said.

NebraskaâÄôs quarterback Taylor Martinez completed the drive with a touchdown pass.

Next the Huskers ran a reverse to redshirt freshman Kenny Bell to open their third drive with an 82-yard touchdown. Nebraska had a 17-0 lead and never looked back.

Minnesota showed some life in the second quarter when Kyle Henderson ran down NebraskaâÄôs Brandon Kinnie from behind after a 61-yard gain and tackled him two yards shy of the end zone. The GophersâÄô defense then kept Nebraska out of the end zone and forced it to kick a field goal.

The momentum garnered from the defensive stop was almost immediately lost when Gray fumbled inside his own 20-yard line and NebraskaâÄôs Austin Cassidy returned it for a touchdown that made the score 27-0.

The one time the Gophers were able to pass midfield in the first half, they attempted a conversion on fourth-and-two, but a miscommunication caused a fumbled snap and Nebraska took over on downs.

Gray shrugged his shoulders and tossed the ball over his shoulder to the referee. Nebraska then drove down the field methodically for another touchdown that set the 34-0 halftime score.

Minnesota came out aggressively in the second half, scoring an early touchdown and recording its only defensive stops of the game, but Nebraska used a 17-play, 91-yard touchdown drive to quickly answer.

Then the Huskers brought in their second team and rested their starters for the remainder of the day.

NebraskaâÄôs Burkhead extended his touchdown streak to seven games. He has now scored a touchdown in every game this season. Nebraska ran for 346 yards on the day overall.

The GophersâÄô offense was able to score a late touchdown against NebraskaâÄôs second-team defense.

For the game, Minnesota had five penalties for 55 yards, four fumbles and one fumble lost for a touchdown return.

NebraskaâÄôs 15-game winning streak dates back to 1963 and it has outscored the Gophers 145-14 the last three games.

Minnesota has been outscored 144-31 in Big Ten play this year. The Gophers will host Iowa next week at TCF Bank Stadium.

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