Huskers top Gophers 53-28 for first win of Frost era
It took seven games and 50 days longer than most anyone expected, but Nebraska finally notched the first victory of the Scott Frost era on Saturday with a 53-28 win over Minnesota.
Behind nearly 700 yards of total offense, the Huskers snapped the nation’s longest active losing streak of 10 games dating back to last season. They also won for the first time in 355 days, which tied for the longest gap between victories in program history.
Nebraska’s offense got rolling right out of the gates when senior running back Devine Ozigbo broke loose around the right end for a 40-yard touchdown run on the opening drive. Ozigbo ended up with another big game, 12 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Minnesota had a 37-yard touchdown pass and a 54-yard field goal taken off the board due to penalties to leave it scoreless on its first two possessions.
That led to Ozigbo busting a career-long 59-yard touchdown run to cap a four-play, 90-yard drive and give NU a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. With his two big runs, Ozigbo finished the opening quarter with 105 yards and two scores on just three carries.
Nebraska pushed its lead to 21-0 on a three-yard touchdown run by Adrian Martinez to finish off a nine-play, 85-yard march in which it only faced one third down. That marked the Huskers’ largest lead since the fourth quarter of its win at Illinois last season (22).
The turnover bug bit NU again late in the second quarter when Martinez coughed up a fumble at his own 37-yard line. But the Blackshirts stepped up and got the ball right back with a fourth-down stop.
Martinez atoned for his mistake by reeling off a career-long 53-yard rush and connecting with J.D. Spielman for a nine-yard touchdown pass that made it a commanding 28-0 lead. Martinez ended up with more than 400 total yards and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).
But as well as the first 28 minutes of the day went, Minnesota was able to close the first half with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Zack Annexstad to Demetrius Douglass with just 52 seconds left and then added a two-point conversion run to take some momentum back heading into halftime.
Even so, the Huskers still out-gained Minnesota 398-172 in total yards, including a 274-37 edge on the ground, to hold their just their second halftime lead of the season (also Colorado).
As good as Nebraska felt after its strong first half, the Gophers kept on rolling into the third quarter.
After losing Annexstad for the game to injury, backup quarterback Tanner Morgan hit Chris Autman-Bell on a 69-yard pass from led to a one-yard touchdown run by Mohamed Ibrahim that cut the lead to 28-15.
Minnesota then marched 79 yards on eight plays and scored on a four-yard run by Wildcat quarterback Seth Green to pull within 28-22 with 7:22 left in the third.
After the Gophers had scored 22 unanswered points, Nebraska finally came back with an answer on the ensuing possession when Martinez connected with Stanley Morgan Jr. for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
Martinez then found Morgan again for a two-point conversion completion to go back up 36-22.
One of the defining moments of the game then came at the start of the fourth quarter. Minnesota had a fourth-and-goal from the three and chose to go for it. Morgan’s throw in the end zone was broken up by Dicaprio Bootle to end the threat and give the Huskers the ball back.
Nebraska was able to translate that into a 32-yard field goal by Barret Pickering and chew seven minutes off the clock in the process, padding the lead to 39-22 with 7:53 left to play.
Just when it looked like the coast was finally clear again, Douglas took off for an 87-yard kickoff return to the NU 11 to put Minnesota right back in the mix. On the second play of the Gophers’ possession, though, Morgan’s pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by linebacker Dedrick Young in the end zone for a touchback.
The Huskers then put the nail in the coffin when Martinez found a wide-open Morgan behind the UM defense for a 67-yard catch and run for a score to make it 46-22 with 5:19 on the clock.
A short kickoff and a facemask penalty on the return spotted Minnesota at the NU 44, and the Gophers quickly drove down and scored on a nine-yard touchdown run by Morgan. The two-point attempt failed to leave it at 46-28 with 4:14 to go.
Maurice Washington put the icing on the cake with a three-yard touchdown run with 1:57 left to give the game its fine score. The freshman joined Ozigbo and Martinez in rushing for 100 yards with 109 on 14 carries, marking just the fifth time in school history and the first time since 2010 that NU has had three rushers crack the century mark in one game.
Nebraska will return to action next week when it hosts Bethune-Cookman for an 11 a.m. kickoff on Big Ten Network.