Huskers dominate Minnesota early, move one step closer to division title
Story by Shelby Fleig, NewsNetNebraska
Just as the Huskers would have it, Saturday was all about Nebraska.
The Huskers’ 38-14 win over the Minnesota Gophers marks their first undefeated home season since 2001 and their fifth consecutive nine-win season under coach Bo Pelini. Nebraska’s trend of comeback wins this season was abandoned when the No. 16 Huskers led early in the game and never trailed.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, exceeding former Husker quarterback Zac Taylor to earn the title of Nebraska’s all-time leader in career passing yards in the first offensive drive of the game.
“It’s awesome because there are so many great quarterbacks that have gone through here, especially Joe Ganz,” said Martinez of his new title, and his quarterback coach.
The Nebraska offense dominated the first half with 24 unanswered points, while the defense allowed the Gophers just four first downs before halftime.
Two of the first half touchdowns came from freshman I-Back Imani Cross, who made short runs inside the 5-yard line that kick-started the offensive dominance.
The Nebraska defense showed up in the second half, most noticeably when cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste intercepted Minnesota freshman quarterback Philip Nelson’s pass at the 48-yard line and ran it back for a touchdown late.
Another second half defensive feat came when defensive end Jason Ankrah intercepted a pass intended for Minnesota wide receiver Andre McDonald early in the third quarter. Five plays later, Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell scored his second touchdown of the day.
Nelson threw for 59 yards total. Minnesota punter Christian Eldred, who averaged 35 yards a punt, did not help the Gophers, either. Eldred biffed 7-yard punt in the 2nd quarter that set up a 34-yard touchdown drive.
Bell reached a career high nine catches for 136 yards, but doesn’t think he did anything special.
“I don’t want to praise our wide receiving core that much,” Bell said. “I think we just do our job as part of the offense.”
This game marked outgoing Athletic Director Tom Osborne’s 500th home game in which he held the role of assistant coach, head coach or athletic director. Osborne led the tunnel walk and was the subject of several tribute videos throughout the afternoon.
“We wanted to give him the best sendoff we possibly could,” Bell said
Nebraska plays Iowa in Iowa City next week, with a chance to head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game Dec. 1.
“Now the challenge is going to be to come back in a short week and be ready to go on the road and put ourselves in position to finish off the second half of the year the way we want to,” Pelini said.
Senior defensive end Eric Martin said the team was emotional because of Senior Day and Osborne’s sendoff. Martin started as a freshman walk on at Nebraska and now leads the team in sacks.
“We just want to accomplish the goals we set every year,” Martin said. “This year we were trying to accomplish all of them and make sure we get to where we need to be, which is Indianapolis. We just want to win for this program and be the first team to do it since 1999.”