Gophers hold off Nebraska 30-23

Oct. 16, 2021: The Golden Gophers defeated Nebraska 30-23, and P.J. Fleck now moves to 3-1 vs. Scott Frost and 4-1 vs. the Cornhuskers.

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Full Game Recap:

  • Pregame/injuries: With the Gophers’ running back room depleted, it looked like they would play Saturday with a relatively healthy roster, but sophomore WR Daniel Jackson was surprisingly inactive.
  • First-Quarter: After forcing a Nebraska three-and-out to open the game, the Gophers’ offense drove down the field and Cole Kramer found Brevyn Spann-Ford for a TD on Kramer’s first career pass. The Cornhuskers responded with a field goal of their own making 7-3 after a quick quarter of football.
  • Second-Quarter: The second half would open with a beautiful 28-yard touchdown pass to Mike Brown-Stephens extending the Gophers lead to 14-3. After exchanging disappointing drives, Nebraska would answer with its first TD of the day but missed the XP making it 14-9 Minnesota. The half would end with Chris Autman-Bell making a spectacular catch in the back corner of the endzone, bring his first-half total to nine catches for 100 yards a TD. Gophers: 21 Nebraska: 9, going into the half.

Second Half:

  • Third-Quarter: It was unfortunately another slow start for the Gophers out of the locker room, and specifically their offense, as two early Tanner Morgan interceptions completely gave the momentum to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers would only score on the second, on freshman RB Rahmir Johnson‘s second TD of the day.
  • Fourth-Quarter: To open the fourth quarter a massive goal-line stand, gave the momentum back to the Gophers. Minnesota would eventually punt the ball back to Nebraska, but a safety completely flipped the game on its head. A 53 yard TD from Bryce Williams would seal the game, until a late Nebraska score. Gophers win 30-23.

Instant Reaction & Takeaways:

That was the definition of a tale of two halves. In the first, the Gophers offense looked the best it had all season. Tanner Morgan looked like his 2019 self, and Chris Autman-Bell looked like one of the best WR in the Big Ten. The play-calling was creative and unpredictable for the first time this season. For the first time this season, the intermediate pass game was where Morgan was finding success. CrAB was getting screens on the outside, Spann-Ford and Brown-Stephens were getting work in the middle of the field. The balance and creativeness made it by far the most visually appealing half of offensive football this season. The defense was making plays and there really wasn’t much more to ask for when it comes to a half of football.

As for the second half, the two Morgan interceptions completely took the air out of the offense early, but the defense, fortunately, continued to show up. A dominant performance from the trio of Boye MafeMJ Anderson and Nyles Pinckney across the defensive line were making plays all games especially when it mattered most. Morgan’s interceptions will overshadow what was a terrific day, but they shouldn’t. They were both terrible throws, but he showed that he is still capable of making this offense highly effective in the passing game. The run game was clearly missing Trey Potts, but a late Williams’ TD will look like they didn’t. Overall it was one of the most complete games from the Gophers this season, and they showed they can still play football at a very high level.

What is Next?:

This win will go a very long way in the Gophers’ hopes of remaining competitive in the Big Ten West. With a Nov. 13 test with Iowa looming, Minnesota will not enter the weakest part of their schedule with Maryland at home and then travel to Northwestern and Illinois. If they play like they did today there is no reason why this team cannot play Iowa while 7-2, with a first-place spot in the Big Ten West on the line.

It will not always be pretty for this team, but they’re talented and they’ve shown they can win football games. The easiest way to forget the Bowling Green loss would be for this team to end Iowa’s perfect season on their home field. Maryland is certainly not a cupcake, but Northwestern and Illinois are from the class of the Big Ten this season. This team continues to have ups and downs, but they control their own destiny and have proven they can play with anyone in this conference.

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