Minnesota (6-4) at (16) Nebraska (8-2)|
Saturday, November 17, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 16th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers hope to keep pace in the race
for a spot in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game, and the next hurdle in
their way appears this Saturday in Lincoln when the Minnesota Golden Gophers
come to town.
Minnesota's 17-3 win at Illinois last weekend made the team bowl eligible, as
it was the Golden Gophers' second triumph in the last three games and the
sixth in 10 total outings this year. Minnesota had won a total of six games in
each of the past two seasons, and the club is eligible for the postseason for
the time since 2009. The win over the Illini was also important in that it
snapped the Gophers' six-game losing streak on the road against Big Ten
Coach Jerry Kill was obviously pleased with the recent win, but also genuinely
happy for the veterans on his team as they will get the chance to play in one
final bowl game.
"I just think of the seniors, and I am happy for them. We still have work to
do. We still have two games left and that's our focus. I am happy for those
older kids because when you have a coaching transition, it's a hard thing on
them. It's been tough but they have responded well and I am just happy for
those kids because they have been through a lot."
Nebraska comes into this clash sporting an 8-2 overall record and a 5-1 mark
in conference, which has it tied with Michigan for the top spot in the Legends
Division. However, the Cornhuskers own the tie-breaker by virtue of their 23-9
victory over the Wolverines earlier this season. Coach Bo Pelini's squad was
most recently in action last Saturday at home against Penn State, and rallied
from a double-digit deficit in the second half to earn a 32-23 victory.
Pelini is also appreciative of the effort put forth by Nebraska's collection
of seniors, and with this being their final game at Memorial Stadium, he
effused praise upon them.
"It's a special group of guys. Obviously it means a lot to me. It's hard to
believe that this is their last go around in Memorial Stadium. I've recruited
them all and brought them here under some tough situations. It's a tremendous
group of kids not just as football players but more importantly as kids how
they have represented this program, and what they have done off the field as
much as they have done on the field."
Minnesota owns a 29-21-2 lead in the all-time series with Nebraska, but the
Cornhuskers have dominated the Gophers of late, winning the last 15 matchups,
the most recent of which being a 41-14 final in Minneapolis last season.
Minnesota gained only 78 yards through the air last week at Illinois, as QB
Nelson Philips completed just 9-of-15 passes on the day. RB Donnell Kirkwood
took it upon himself to shoulder much of the offensive burden, as he rushed
for 152 yards and two TDs, averaging nearly five and a half yards per carry in
The UM defense certainly did its part, not allowing a TD and holding the
Fighting Illini to a mere 276 total yards, of which only 101 came via the run.
The Gophers logged two sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries in the contest,
and LB Aaron Hill led the team with 10 tackles, seven of which were
unassisted. The three points allowed to Illinois were the fewest surrendered
by Minnesota to a Big Ten foe since it blanked Illinois, 45-0, back in 2004.
Through 10 games, Minnesota is scoring just a tad more than it allows (23.2
ppg to 22.3 ppg), and the team uses a balanced, if unspectacular offensive
approach in averaging 166.2 ypg on the ground and 187.5 ypg via the pass.
Nelson has started four games this year, and has hit the mark on 57.1 percent
of his passes for 791 yards, six TDs and four interceptions, while Kirkwood
has amassed 819 yards and five scores on 182 carries (4.5 ypc, 81.9 ypg). A.J.
Barker is the team's leading receiver with 30 grabs for 577 yards and seven
Minnesota's strength on defense is its ability to control the passing game, as
foes typically generate just 168.8 ypg through the air. The Gophers have been
credited with 21 sacks among their 53 TFL, but they've come up with only 14
turnovers. Troy Stoudermire leads the team with 63 total tackles, while DL
Wilhite has seven sacks.
The Cornhuskers kept their dreams of playing for the Big Ten title alive last
weekend, as they got past visiting Penn State after trailing for much of the
contest. It was the third time in the last six games that Nebraska battled
back from a deficit of 12 points or more to claim victory, as QB Taylor
Martinez tallied 275 yards of total offense (171 passing, 104 rushing), and
had a TD toss. RB Ameer Abdullah led the NU ground assault with 116 yards on
31 carries. In all, the Huskers rolled up 438 yards of total offense, while
allowing the Nittany Lions 391 yards.
Ciante Evans and Will Compton finished with 10 tackles apiece, and the
Nebraska defense was credited with three sacks and three takeaways, two of
which belonged to Daimion Stafford.
Martinez is one of the better dual-threat signal-callers in the nation, as he
has thrown for 2,112 yards, 19 TDs and only eight interceptions, while running
for 770 yards and eight TDs on 132 carries. Abdullah is fast approaching 1,000
yards for the season, settling in at 942 yards with eight rushing scores
himself. Kenny Bell continues to pace the NU receiving corps with 35 catches
for 653 yards and six TDs.
Nebraska is outscoring its opponents by 12.4 ppg (37.4 to 25.0), and the
Husker defense has been on point as well against the pass, yielding a mere
164.4 ypg. Foes have found open running lanes, to the tune of 180 ypg, but the
unit as a whole has made some big plays, namely 27 sacks, 75 TFL and 17
takeaways. Compton paces the team with his 83 tackles, while Eric Martin leads
the way with 7.5 sacks and 12 stops total behind the line of scrimmage.
Nebraska controls its own destiny with regard to reaching the Big Ten title
tilt, and while the Gophers are sure to put up a fight, the Huskers will make
their final home game a memorable one as they log another satisfying win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska 38, Minnesota 17
11/14 10:50:26 ET