10 things we learned from Nebraska's loss to Minnesota
Here are 10 of our biggest takeaways following Nebraska's 34-7 loss to Minnesota on Saturday night...
1. Nebraska was dominated in every phase
Like all head coaches, Scott Frost hates losing. When his team gets completely dominated on both sides of the ball as Nebraska did by Minnesota on Saturday night, it makes him sick to his stomach.
The Huskers had no answers for the Golden Gophers in the trenches, and it led to a 34-7 blowout loss that felt even worse than the 27-point final margin.
Minnesota pushed NU’s defensive line around all game and put up 450 yards of total offense on 7.3 yards per play. On offense, the Gophers held Nebraska under 300 total yards with four sacks, four turnovers on downs, and only allowed one trip inside the red zone.
Based on the week of practice the Huskers had coming into the game, Frost thought his squad was ready to play. But the Huskers clearly were not, neither mentally or physically.
2. The run defense was as bad as it's been all season
Minnesota’s running game went wild in last week’s win over Illinois, piling up a season-high 332 yards on 52 carries.
In the previous four games, though, the Gophers were hardly a dominant ground attack. They only managed 463 yards rushing on 176 carries (2.63 yards per carry) prior to Illinois, including back-to-back weeks going under 100 yards against Georgia Southern (48 carries for 93 yards) and Purdue (34-92).
But Nebraska made Minnesota look like a well-oiled rushing machine, as UM racked up 322 yards on 49 carries and had three backs run for 84 yards or more. That included UM posting 220 yards on 23 attempts (9.3 ypc) in the first half alone.
The Huskers’ defensive line got blown off the ball far too often, and the linebackers were constantly out of position. Once an NU defender actually got to the ball carrier, poor tackling led to chunks of yards after contact.
On Minnesota’s second touchdown drive of the game, it ran the ball on five of six plays for an average of 14.2 yards per carry. You’re not going to beat anyone playing defense like that.
3. Vedral did his part
It was widely speculated most of the week that starting quarterback Adrian Martinez wouldn’t be ready to return in time for the Minnesota game as he continued to recover from an injury he suffered last week vs. Northwestern.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise when sophomore Noah Vedral was officially announced as the starter on Saturday night.
While the 34-7 loss was an overall night to forget for the Huskers, Vedral was hardly the main reason for their struggles.
Making the first start of his college career, the Wahoo, Neb., native held his own and put together some nice drives while making plays with arm and his legs. Vedral finished the game 13-of-23 passing for 135 yards and led the team in rushing with 49 yards on 15 attempts.
He had to leave the game following NU’s first and only touchdown drive – where he took a hard shot to his leg near the goal line – and did not return the rest of the night. Frost said Vedral got “nicked up” but Vedral later said he would be OK.
Martinez will have two more full weeks to recover before Nebraska’s next game, so he’ll have ample time to work his way back. But it’s at least good to know that NU has a capable backup should Martinez have to miss any more time.
4. Robinson's injury stifled NU's already struggling offense
As Nebraska didn't have enough issues with some of its top playmakers, its offense was dealt another major blow when Wan’Dale Robinson went down with an injury in the second quarter.
With eight minutes left before halftime, the dynamic true freshman took a jet sweep around the right end and was hit on the side of his left leg. Robinson was down on the field for several minutes before eventually being helped to the sideline by team trainers.
That would be the end of the evening for the two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, as he returned to the sideline in a walking boot. The good news was Robinson tweeted after the game: “appreciate everyone who has reached out, i’ll be good!”
That obviously left a huge void in NU’s offense. Before his injury, Robinson had six rushes for 24 yards, two catches for 10 yards, and a 23-yard kickoff return.
That didn’t include a 31-yard catch and run in the first quarter that was negated by a block in the back penalty on Kanawai Noa.
5. The snaps were actually OK
For all the criticism center Cam Jurgens got during the week about his poor snapping this season, Saturday was arguably his best game yet in that regard.
It seems odd to praise a center for successfully snapping the ball to the quarterback without issue, but it was a nice step in the right direction for the first-year starter.
Now, he and the rest of the offensive line didn't do much of anything after he got the ball to the QB, but at least Jurgens eliminated one completely unnecessary hurdle for the offense to overcome.
6. Davis might be starting to develop a reputation
A week after being suspended for the Northwestern game for “violating the Big Ten Sportsmanship Policy” when he struck an Ohio State player, Khalil Davis found himself in another bad look at Minnesota.
With just under five minutes left in the third quarter, the senior defensive end was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct for shoving UM running back Shannon Brooks’ head into the turf after a high hit.
The play certainly deserved a flag, and it will be interesting to see how closely Big Ten officials watch Davis going forward the rest of the season.
Once a player gets a reputation, refs are going to be monitoring him on every snap of every game.
7. Warner finally gets back in the mix
After searching all season for someone else to step up at wide receiver besides Spielman and Robinson, Nebraska may have finally found another option in a familiar face.
Kade Warner, who had missed much of the year with a lingering injury, traveled to Minnesota and made his first impact. The sophomore caught three passes for 38 yards on the night, all in the second half.
Warner admitted it had been a frustrating start to the season not being able to help his team, and he was just happy to play a part for the first time.
Warner was the second-most productive returning wide receiver from last season after Spielman, so getting him back in the mix could be a major boost.
8. Bando gets another shot in a new role
Looking for something to spark its offense, Nebraska made a notable change to its offensive line at halftime.
On first drive of third quarter, sophomore Broc Bando replaced sophomore Trent Hixson at left guard. The Lincoln, Neb., native stayed there for the rest of the game, though his addition didn’t change much as far as NU’s production.
Bando was also flagged for a personal foul on a chop block midway through the third, but the penalty was declined after UM forced a Husker punt.
It was the second game appearance for Bando this season, as he also filled in for Brenden Jaimes at left tackle when Jaimes was injured against Northern Illinois.
Bando said he generally splits his practice reps “50/50” between tackle and guard, so he was ready for his role on Saturday.
9. Frost regrets fake punt call
Another failed attempt to try and get something going came when Nebraska called its first fake punt of the season.
Facing a fourth-and-three from its own 45-yard line, NU snapped the ball to up-man Austin Allen, who tried to run it up the middle. But Allen was forced to try and take it outside and got stuffed a full yard short of the first down marker.
That gave Minnesota the ball back at the Huskers’ 47, and had it not been for a dropped touchdown pass by a wide-open tight end Jake Paulson, the decision could have put down 28-0.
Frost said he made the call because he “had to try something” to provide a spark. In retrospect, though, Frost thought Minnesota knew it was coming and he probably should have punted.
10. Nebraska gets a much-needed break
If there were ever a good time for a bye week, this would be it.
Nebraska is reeling with several notable injuries, so getting two weeks just to heal up for the second half of the season is valuable in itself.
But the week off will also allow the Huskers to take a much-needed mental break after an emotionally up-and-down first seven games.
Frost said he wanted his team to spend a couple of days away from football next week and come back to work regrouped and refocused.
We'll see how much, if anything, changes when NU returns to action at home vs. Indiana on Oct. 26. But everyone - coaches, players, and fans alike - could use a break after Saturday night's debacle.