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Gophers overcome second-half struggles and take down Nebraska 30-23

After controlling the first half, a big performance from the Minnesota defensive line proved to be crucial in Saturday’s contest.
Image by Liam Armstrong
Wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell raises his arms in celebration of a touchdown at Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. The Gophers defeated Penn State 31-26 to bring their record to 9-0, a first since 1904.

The Gophers bye week gave them some early energy against the Cornhuskers, and they led all game, ultimately leaving victorious 30-23.

“That was truly culture over skill,” head coach P.J. Fleck said. “Whatever anyone wants to say about us, our culture, feel free, we have been called everything in the book.”

The Minnesota defense was aggressive to open the game, and after forcing Nebraska into an opening drive three-and-out, Minnesota’s offense was ready to take the field.

An opening offensive drive that saw six Gophers’ passes and seven runs, was capped off by redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cole Kramer’s first career pass going for a touchdown to tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford.

Nebraska’s offense would respond with a methodical drive resulting in a 50-yard field goal, shortening the Minnesota lead to 7-3.

Tanner Morgan and the Gophers’ offense would pick up right where they left off. A beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass to Mike Brown-Stephens extended the lead to 14-3.

After a pair of disappointing drives for both teams, the Cornhuskers’ offense put together their best drive of the game. Freshman running back Rahmir Johnson found the end zone for Nebraska’s first touchdown of the day. After missing the extra point the Gophers lead would be 14-9.

Redshirt-senior wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell capped off an explosive first half for himself and the Gophers’ offense with a spectacular seven-yard touchdown grab in the back corner of the end zone.

The duo of Autman-Bell and Morgan was effective early and often, resulting in the 6-foot-1-inch wide receiver reeling in nine catches for 100 yards in the first half alone.

“Everybody wrote him [Morgan] off,” said Fleck. “He’s gutsy, he’s gritty, he’s been through a lot in his life and the more you’ve been through the better you’re from me, because you know what you’re going to get.”

Out of the locker room, it was not as smooth for the Gophers. Tanner Morgan’s program-best 16 straight completion streak was ended by an interception. Nebraska failed to take advantage with a punt, but on Morgan’s next pass it would fall in the hands of the Cornhuskers once again.

Nebraska found the end for the first points of the second half on the second touchdown of the day from Johnson.

After punting the ball back to the Cornhuskers, a crucial Nebraska fourth and goal from Minnesota’s one-yard line shortly after got stuffed by the Gophers’ defensive line, as they completely regained momentum.

“We had to go down there and bull up,” said senior linebacker Jack Gibbens. “That was an awesome play.”

The Gophers’ offense failed to get going with four straight punts, but after pinning Nebraska deep in its own territory another big play from the Gophers’ defensive line resulted in a safety giving Minnesota a 23-16 lead.

Redshirt-junior running back Bryce Williams broke free for a 56-yard touchdown on the following drive, virtually sealing the game for the Gophers.

“When it came down to who I trusted, and who has done it, 21 [Williams],” Fleck said.

A tale of two halves was the story for Minnesota. After a dominant showing from the passing game in the first half, big plays from the defensive line proved crucial in the Gophers coming out on top.

Minnesota will face off against Maryland next week at home on Saturday, Oct. 23.

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