Huskers roll Minnesota in 48-25 victory
MINNEAPOLIS - After posting its worst start to a season in nearly 50 years, Nebraska desperately needed a strong four-quarter performance that could get some positive momentum going. The Huskers got exactly that on Saturday afternoon.
Behind one of its most complete all-around efforts of the year, NU rolled over Minnesota 48-25 to pick up its first Big Ten victory and snap a two-game losing streak in front of a sellout crowd of 52,062.
The game got off to a rocky start for Nebraska, as Minnesota took the opening drive of the game 75 yards on nine plays, including three third-down conversions, and scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner to Eric Carter. Leidner, who came in averaging 168 passing yards per game, was a perfect 5-of-5 passing for 64 yards on the drive. The score also marked the Gophers' first offensive touchdown in the first quarter all season.
It didn't take long for NU to come up with an answer, though. On the third play of the Huskers' first possession, junior running back Terrell Newby broke loose on a 69-yard touchdown run down the right sideline to even the score at 7-7 with 8:52 left in the first quarter. The run was a career-long for Newby and the team's longest play from scrimmage on the year.
Following a quick three-and-out by Minnesota, Nebraska got another spark from the first big play of the season by De'Mornay Pierson-El, who returned the first punt of the day 42 yards down to the UM 21. The Huskers squandered the opportunity, however, as the drive stalled after three plays and then Drew Brown shanked a 31-yard field goal wide right.
But NU got another break two plays later when safety Nate Gerry forced a fumble and defensive end Jack Gangwish recovered at the Minnesota 29. Facing a third-and-13 from the 32, quarterback Tommy Armstrong rolled right and found Alonzo Moore in the back corner of the end zone to put the Huskers up 14-7 with 3:50 to go in the first.
The momentum continued rolling in Nebraska's favor on into the second quarter, as the offense mounted a 16-play, 63-yard drive that ate up 6:32 off the clock and pushed its lead 17-7 with a 45-yard field goal by Brown. Though they didn't reach the end zone, the 16-play drive was the Huskers' longest of the season.
Just when it seemed NU was about to break the game open, though, the Gophers came back with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive of their own and cut the lead to 17-14 on a seven-yard end around run by receiver KJ Maye with 6:02 remaining in the half.
A 34-yard pass to Brandon Reilly on the opening play of the very next possession got the ball rolling again for Nebraska, leading to Newby's second touchdown run of the day from nine yards out to put the Huskers up 24-14 with 1:55 left, and that score would hold into halftime. The 24 points were the most points the Gophers had allowed all year since a 27-0 loss to Northwestern on Oct. 3.
Nebraska's offense didn't slow down much at all in the second half. In fact, the Huskers chewed up the bulk of the third quarter with a 10-play, 99-yard drive capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cethan Carter, who made a great individual effort to stretch the ball over the goal line while falling out of bounds.
Because of a holding penalty, Armstrong accounted for 102 yards of offense on the drive, completing a perfect 6-of-6 passes for 77 yards to go along with a 25-yard rush.
Armstrong came right back on the following drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Pierson-El, who out-jumped a Minnesota defender, tipped the ball in the air and came down with it in the corner of the end zone to push the lead up to 38-14 with 14:21 to play.
The Gophers kept fighting and got back on the board with a one-yard touchdown run by Leidner, and then Leidner found Maye to covert the two-point conversion to make it 38-22 with 11:52 remaining. Minnesota then made a 39-yard field goal with 6:49 left to cut the lead to 38-25, and the pressure was on for NU's offense to eat up the rest of the clock and preserve the win.
Nebraska recovered the onside kick that followed, and then facing a third-and-six from their own 42, Armstrong hit Jordan Westerkamp for a 27-yard completion down to the UM 31. That set up a 41-yard field goal by Brown that increased the lead to 41-25 with just over three minutes to go.
Cornerback Joshua Kalu sealed locked up the win on Minnesota's next drive, picking off Leidner for a pick six that made it 48-25 with just 2:10 on the clock.
The Huskers will look to keep things going next week when they play host to Northwestern for an 11 a.m. kickoff on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
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