The Bell Jar
There were few surprises to be found in Nebraska’s 41-14 pummeling of the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Nebraska entered Saturday’s game on a 14 game win streak against the Gophers dating back to 1963. In the span of those fourteen games the Huskers outscored the Gophers 563 – 100 including a streak of 121 unanswered points dating back to the teams’ 1984 match-up. Nebraska ran that streak to 155 straight points before the Gophers finally found the end zone on a 5 yard scramble out of a botched play to cap off a 4 play 57 yard drive. A drive that featured a circus double-reverse flea flicker from Gray to Da’Jon McKnight for 53 yards that finally injected some life into the Gophers and the crowd at TCF.
After they were already down by 34.
Nebraska surprisingly seemed to take their foot off the pedal, or the Gophers’ collective necks depending on your choice of metaphor, in the second half allowing the Gophers to “win” the second half 14-7 on the strength of that Gray pass and rush and some hard running by Duane Bennett in the closing seconds once everyone in red was already mentally checked out and half-way to Lincoln.
In the first half a lot of the same problems that have plagued the Gophers all season reared their ugly heads.
- Containment in general and the unfocused aggressiveness of Gopher defensive ends again proved costly. Instead of staying home on what appeared to be a pitch to Rex Burkhead outside carrying the action away from him, defensive end Michael Amaefula pursued the play down the LOS and helped open up a free release to the second level for WR Kenny Bell once he took a hand-off from Burkhead.
- The Gophers again committed critical turnovers leading to points. Gray’s fumble in the shadow of his own goal posts seemed to signal the end of the game as Austin Cassidy stumbled in to make it 26-0 before the XP.
- Offensively Minnesota struggled on third down, converting only 3/8 opportunities right about in line with their season average coming in to today of 31.58%.
- Minnesota struggled to establish a passing attack with an ineffective Gray and a group of receivers who struggled to get separation from a Nebraska team that was allowing 204.8 yards per game to opposing QBs. The result of that combination was a 2/8 9 yard line at halftime.
- Minnesota showed a general lack of discipline and frequently looked lost. They were unable to get the proper package in following a third and goal stop leading Kill to burn a timeout in the first quarter to get the right personnel on the field.
There were a few positives out of the game, almost entirely in the second half, but they should be taken with a grain of salt given how Nebraska let up down the stretch.
- After his miserable first half performance Gray bounced back with a 7/10 line for 133 yards in the second half.
- Minnesota had their second play from scrimmage all season with that 53 yard flea flicker from Gray to McKnight. Even if Nebraska had let up it was a beautifully delivered ball.
- McKnight displayed excellent body control and sense of position reeling in a 24 yard pass down the sidelines on 4th and 2 to extend what would be the Gophers final scoring drive.
- Minnesota did have success on third and short rushing attempts on Saturday converting first downs on all 5 rushing attempts on third and 4 or less. Coming into the game Minnesota had converted only 29.4% of third and short rushing attempts. Today’s 5/5 performance boosts their season conversion rate to 45% which is…still pretty awful but a major improvement.
- Even though Nebraska obviously let up it had to be an emotional boost for the players to outscore Nebraska 14-7 in the second half. Hopefully that will carry over into next weekend’s game against a very flawed Iowa program that could be primed for an upset.Okay probably not but let me dream for a moment.
Even with Nebraska’s waning interest in the second half the game was dominated by Nebraska in every category except lowest blood sugar among attending fans.
CATEGORY NEB MIN
First Downs 27 11
Total Yards 515 254
Passing Yards 169 122
Rushing Yards 346 132
If I was scrambling for positives I’d be tempted to point at the relatively narrow gap between Nebraska and Minnesota’s passing yards but you don’t need to pass when you run up 346 yards on the ground.
For you kids at home that’s 1038 feet or over 10 times the length of the largest Blue Whale ever measured by the NMML.
Nebraska set season bests in both first downs and rushing yards:
OPPONENT FD RYD
Chattanooga 18 229
Fresno State 16 219
Washington 22 309
Wyoming 24 333
Wisconsin 20 159
Ohio State 25 232
Minnesota 27 346
On the plus side Minnesota did execute at least one textbook tackle on Saturday:
It was difficult to watch those ridiculous Husker fans awkwardly attempt to high five one another while Bo Pelini, who I am reasonably sure is some kind of Java Man throwback, alternated between fist pumping, glowering into the distance and dousing the sideline in a fine mist of spittle.
The thing I found most surprising about today was the following tweet by ESPN 1500 reporter Darren Wolfson:
Kill said on his radio show, and it was reiterated to me by an assistant: they really liked their game plan today.
Personally I wasn’t a fan.
In fairness Kill’s name is just being etched as one of a long list of Gophers coaches that have been embarrassed by the Huskers since the 60s.
At least Wisconsin lost.