Offense falters in 38-14 loss at Nebraska

The Gophers didn’t eclipse 100 yards of offense until the fourth quarter.

Dane Mizutani

LINCOLN, Neb. — Minnesota was on cloud nine last week after it clinched its first bowl berth in three years.

Nebraska spent all Saturday bringing the Gophers back to earth.

The Huskers beat Minnesota 38-14 at Memorial Stadium, dropping the Gophers to 6-5 on the season.

Nebraska honored legendary head coach and athletics director Tom Osborne before kickoff in his final home game before retirement. Osborne dominated the Gophers in his tenure, and Saturday brought back some memories.

Nebraska scored on its first possession of the game and never looked back. It amassed 444 yards of total offense to the Gophers’ 177.

“That’s an awful good football team,” head coach Jerry Kill said postgame. “We got dominated at the line of scrimmage.”

Minnesota never established a rhythm on either side of the ball and appeared overmatched in all facets of the game.

This came a week after the Gophers put a similar beatdown on Illinois last weekend.

“It stings a lot,” senior MarQueis Gray said. “We came off of a good win last week, and we’re feeling confident going into today, and we didn’t show up, basically.”

Minnesota true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson finished 8-for-23 for 59 yards through the air. He was erratic with his throws and didn’t get any help from his teammates on offense.

Donnell Kirkwood, who gained a career-high 152 rushing yards last week, was held to 11 yards Saturday.

In contrast, Nebraska junior quarterback Taylor Martinez was surgical. Martinez, who was regarded as a mediocre passer early in his career, knifed through the Gophers secondary en route to 308 yards and two passing touchdowns.

Ameer Abdullah added 79 yards on the ground and helped the Huskers control the tempo of the game.

The Gophers had no answer for either player, which compounded their offensive struggles. They went three-and-out on four of their six first-half possessions.

“You can’t go three-and-out … certainly not against a team that’s averaging 500 yards of offense,” Kill said. “That’s a pretty tall task to ask [the defense] to do.”

Minnesota safety Brock Vereen said the consistent three-and-outs were a challenge, but he didn’t use it to excuse a subpar performance.

“That’s a chance to show how good we can be,” Vereen said, “and we didn’t do that enough in that game.”

Kenny Bell caught a 36-yard touchdown from Martinez early in the first quarter to put Nebraska up 10-0 before the Gophers could blink.

The Huskers took that lead into the second and built on it the rest of the afternoon.

Nebraska marched downfield on its first drive of the second quarter, and fullback Imani Cross found the end zone to make it 17-0. He tacked on another touchdown on the Huskers’ next possession to put the game out of reach before halftime.

“I’ve got to do a better job,” Kill said. “I’m the head coach … and we did not execute and do the things we needed to do in the first half to stay in that game.”

Minnesota started the second half with another three-and-out and didn’t reach 100 yards of offense until early in the fourth quarter.

Bell hauled in another score in the third quarter, and cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-0.

“We didn’t do a good job pressuring [Martinez], and he found open guys and made the passes,” senior linebacker Mike Rallis said.

Sophomore Max Shortell relieved Nelson at quarterback in the fourth quarter and led Minnesota to its first of two late scores. Gray capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 38-7.

Nebraska gifted the Gophers another touchdown after it fumbled inside its own 10-yard line. Gray took the snap at quarterback on the ensuing play and plunged into the end zone for his second score.

Gray said he was satisfied the team got on the board, but it didn’t take away from the brutal loss.

“They really don’t mean anything,” he said of his late touchdowns. “We still lost the game.”