Minnesota Beats Nebraska for First Time Since 1960
October 26, 2013

After spotting Nebraska 10 points, Minnesota beat the Cornhuskers 34-23, the first win over Nebraska since 1960. Philip Nelson relieved Mitch Leidner at quarterback in the first half, ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, and covered 152 yards in the air. David Cobb carried the rushing load, gaining 138 yards and helping to work the clock as Minnesota held on to its lead in the fourth quarter.

The win was the second straight for Minnesota acting coach Tracy Claeys, filling in as head coach Jerry Kill manages his epilepsy. “We made the plays we need to win,” said Claeys. “We stayed committed to the running game. That’s big, to keep their speed off the field.”

Nebraska struck quickly, scoring less than two-and-a-half minutes into the game. After missing three games because of a turf toe, quarterback Taylor Martinez saw his first action since September 14. A little rust showed in his passing, but he made good decisions, especially on pitches to Ameer Abdullah, who rushed for 16 yards. One came on the opening drive, as Nebraska faced third and eight at the Nebraska 40. The play was good for 16 yards, and Martinez followed that with a pass to Kenny Bell, who had a step on cornerback Eric Murray, to the 3, setting up a touchdown run by Imani Cross.

Barely two minutes later, the Cornhuskers had the ball back in Minnesota territory but came away with only a 45-yard field goal by Pat Smith for a 10-0 lead.

Instead of folding, the Gophers came back with a 13-play drive capped by a quarterback sneak into the end zone.

With Nelson at quarterback in the second quarter, Minnesota started from its 12, got a 15-yard run from Cobb, 20-yard gain on a pass to Mike Henry, and a matching gain on the ground by Donovahn Jones. After a no gain and two incomplete passes, Nelson fired a pass over the middle to Derrick Engel, who split the coverage, leaped, pulled down the ball, and fell into the end zone, giving the Gophers a 14-10 lead that it never gave up.

Leading 17-13 in the third quarter, the Gophers started at the Nebraska 38 after an 11-yard punt return by Engel enhanced by a facemask penalty. A pass to tight-end Drew Goodger and Nelson scramble put the ball at the 3. Three plays later, Nelson sneaked in.

Chris Hawthorne connected on a 45-yard field goal late in the third quarter for a 27-13 lead, and the Gophers held on from there.

The Cornhuskers came back with a touchdown before the quarter was over, helped by a 35-yard run by Martinez on a quarterback draw. Three carries by Abdullah brought the ball to the 3. Martinez then faked a handoff to Abdullah and lobbed a touchdown pass to an open Sam Cotton to cut the lead to 7.

Nebraska had a chance to tie in the fourth quarter but could get only a field goal. With under six minutes to play, Nebraska started at its 9 but Martinez was sacked by Martez Shabazz and had to punt. By the time the Cornhuskers got the ball back, under a minute remained and they were down by 11 as the Gophers scored another touchdown.

“We just got pushed and we didn’t tackle well,” said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. “On defense we had way too many breakdowns.

“I’m talking basic football that we couldn’t execute and didn’t execute. This game comes down to blocking and tackling, and we didn’t do that very well.”

Claeys said that Kill was at practice during the week and addressed the team at halftime. “He told us, ‘I’ll handle the kids and you handle the adjustments.’”

The sixth win makes the Gophers eligible for a bowl game. But Claeys is looking for more. “A year ago we celebrated the sixth win because it was late in the season, but now we have our sixth win in October, and we can reset our goals.

“They’re bigger wins out there if we continue to believe.”

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