Minnesota Football: Gophers vs Nebraska Cornhuskers Q&A with Corn Nation

Eric Francis

The writers of SB Nation's Nebraska blog Corn Nation stop by to answer some questions about Minnesota's opponent this week. Corn Nation's own mascot "Cobby" also managed to answer a few questions. Beware, he is not sane.

The Daily Gopher: You've had a bye week to ponder Nebraska's season thus far. So, how's it going?

COBBY: I THOUGHT WE HAD A BYE WEEKEND THIS WEEK TOO

Jon J: It’s hard to tell. We gave up 38 points to the only really good team we’ve played so far this season, the defense has looked a lot better than it did at the beginning, and our star quarterback hasn’t played in weeks. At this point, we have no idea about what kind of team we have.

Brian: For what has happened basically the last three years, it depends on who you talk to. Nebraska has actually looked pretty good this year, save that second half versus UCLA. If you asked anyone in the fanbase (and most of us) about a 5-1 start with no B1G losses yet, they would have taken it 9.999 times out of 10. Having Taylor Martinez hurt has actually helped some of this offense grow up with Tommy Armstrong Jr and Ron Kellogg III getting in there to make things go as smoothly as it’s needed.

TDG: Your defense didn't play well in two of your first three games this season (wait, Wyoming? Really), but seems to have gotten back on track in recent weeks. Are the defensive issues solved, and any chance the bad Nebraska defense shows up at TCF Bank Stadium this Saturday? Asking for a friend.

Husker Mike: In the front seven on Nebraska’s defense, the depth chart lists 10 freshmen, 3 sophomores, 2 juniors, and 3 seniors on the top two units. That inexperience showed against Wyoming, UCLA, and South Dakota State. Now that we’re halfway through the season, those freshmen are figuring it out. Over time, they are learning their roles, and communicating better with their teammates so that everybody is on the same page. Are they fixed? I won’t say that until the end of the season, but it’s looking better.

Jon: No chance a bad Nebraska defense shows up this weekend. Reason - Minnesota doesn’t do enough spread, and they don’t do enough pre-snap shifts. Those are what had confused our defense, mostly due to what Mike referenced about inexperience.

Brian: I echo what Mike said, this D (especially in the front 7) has learned on the fly this season, and has quietly gotten better. Absolutely no one, however, is ready to call them "back" or anything, because we know what can happen to this Defense at seemingly any time.

TDG: You can count on at least three things in life: death, taxes, and Bo Pelini losing four games every season. So at 5-1 thus far, who are Nebraska's remaining three losses going to come against this season?

Husker Mike: People used to say that Tom Osborne had to eat his Cheerios on a plate because he always lost anything in a bowl. Past history isn’t a guarantee of future performance.

Brian: I’m one of the guys who has been pretty static in saying that it’s been a lather/rinse/repeat thing for Bo’s teams the last few seasons. However, this is starting to shape up like the last couple of years where the team starts fast. I do think that this year Nebraska can get to 11 wins, but at the same time, they can get to 8-5 and such very easily. It’s truly a week by week thing in this last 6 weeks.

TDG: Guessing Taylor Martinez will be the starting QB on Saturday. How much confidence do Husker fans have in him? And hasn't he been there since Tom Osborne retired? It feels that way.

Jon: Husker fans’ relationship with Martinez (T-Magic!) isn’t that much of a mystery. Nebraska hasn’t won a championship in so long, the fans are hungry and many have decided that he’s solely to blame for their unanswered prayers. It would have been easier for him had he not set such high expectations his freshman year, and this season, fans were sure that Tommy Armstrong Jr was a fit replacement until TA2’s bad outing at Purdue. Now comes a new hope (Hey, that would be a good movie title!) that Martinez will be better than ever.

Brian: I asked this summer if Taylor needed either a B1G title or a bowl win to justify his career, and a lot of folks (3 out of 4) say he needs either a bowl win or that conference title to indeed become one of the all time Nebraska greats. Of course he’s gotten better as he’s been the starter in Lincoln. However, some folks still have that uneasy feeling every time he goes back to pass or pulls the ball down to run. It just happens and we have to deal with it as it comes.

TDG: Is Tommy Armstrong Jr the next great Nebraska QB?

Husker Mike:  Maybe.  Armstrong has a strong arm and runs the option well. He’s shown to be somewhat turnover prone like his predecessor, though. He hasn’t separated himself from senior journeyman Ron Kellogg III, though.  And there is another freshman named Johnny Stanton, who won the Elite 11 quarterback camp in the summer of 2012.  He’s redshirting this season, so there could be quite the quarterback competition next spring.

Jon: YES!!!! He just needs time to mature, and he’ll win the Heisman twice, and win two national titles, three Big Ten championships and break records and become a media sensation, have his own reality TV show where he goes around the world spreading joy and happiness to the point that humanity realizes its futility, ends all wars, hunger, and disparity and global warming ceases to be an issue. Not that we have unrealistic expectations or anything.

Brian: I watched Armstrong lead his HS team (San Antonio Cibolo Steele) to TWO Texas 5-A state championship games, winning one. You don’t do that in this HS football crazed state without being able to lead your team to victory. His style is tailor-made for Tim Beck’s offense, and he will only get better the more he plays.

TDG: Who has been Nebraska's best offensive and defensive players this season?

Husker Mike:  Offensively, I’d split my vote between I-Back Ameer Abdullah and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. Abdullah has come on really strong following the UCLA game, while Enunwa is every defensive back’s worst nightmare.  He blocks like a tight end, catches the ball like a wide receiver, and it takes three guys to tackle him.  Just throw him a catchable ball.  Defensively, I’d go with cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste.  Stanley moved from receiver to cornerback two years ago, and showed flashes of brilliance with long stretches of ineptitude. He’s finally gotten the hang of playing cornerback, and his four interceptions gives him a share for the lead in the B1G.

TDG: Does Nebraska win the "West" division this year? If not, who?

Jon J: Yes, Nebraska wins it. The only thing that can beat us is ourselves. Given recent history…

Brian: I am not sure, it comes down to whether Nebraska can take the show on the road and win in Ann Arbor against Michigan. The Huskers wouldn’t be out of the division if they lost against Michigan, but they would need some help and run the table, one thing that is going to be rough going to Penn St and taking on both Iowa and Michigan St.

TDG: Impressions of Minnesota thus far?

Aaron: I’ve watched some Gopher games thus far. I feel like Minnesota has a good defense and special teams unit and that they just hope the offense doesn’t eff things up for them. I haven’t been impressed with either quarterback. I’ve seen occasional brilliance when they are on offense, but just not enough to establish themselve to be consistent enough to sustain a number of long scoring drives.

Jon: Minnesota has some pieces in place, but just not enough all at once. The running backs are decent, but not enough to carry a heavy enough load to set up more play-action. Phillip Nelson and Mitch Leidner are young, so neither has developed the skill set needed to run a well-rounded offense. Ra’Shede Hageman is darned good, but needs another darned good to complement him and the defensive backs look lost half the time they’re on the field. I hope that Jerry Kill figures out his health issues - I don’t think there’s a Husker fan I’ve ever heard from that has anything but respect for him. We hope he does well, but not too well, you know what I’m saying here.

TDG: Anything about this Gopher team make you nervous in matching up with the Huskers?

COBBY: THERE WAS THIS ONE TIME I WOKE UP IN A DITCH. THE SUN WAS SHINING BRIGHTLY AND THERE WAS A BUDWEISER BOTTLE 10 FEET FROM ME THAT STILL HAD SOME LEFTOVERS IN IT. WHEN I SAW THAT GOPHER EYEING IT, I BECAME REAL NERVOUS. IT WAS HIM OR ME. I TORE AFTER IT JUST AS HE DID, BUT HE BEAT ME TO IT! DAMN SNEAKY BASTARD. WE FOUGHT OVER THE BOTTLE BUT HE ENDED UP SMASHING IT OVER MY HEAD. I HAD A NASTY BUMP AND WE WERE BOTH S-OUTTA LUCK.

Jon: If Minnesota can get any sort of running game going and Nelson or Leidner can hit some play-action passes, then the Gophers stand a chance. Given Nebraska’s defense, there’s a decent possibility of that happening. I don’t see Minnesota’s defense stopping the Husker offense, though, so the Gophers will need to score 30 to win because we’re going to score at least that much.

Brian: I echo Jon, and I also wonder about focusing on the Gophers. However, coming off the bye week, I can not really envision that happening. The only thing that could happen is Taylor not being prepared and/or being rusty, and even then TA and RK3 coming in doesn’t make me sweat.

TDG: OK, prediction time: who wins, and not that we'd ever condone gambling, by how much (Huskers -8.5 as of this morning)?

Jon: Nebraska wins, 38-13. I can see the Nebraska secondary picking off one or two passes to end scoring drives, and Randy Gregory causing fits for Minnesota’s quarterbacks. Add to that Ameer Abdullah, Imani Cross in the running game, and Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell against the Minnesota secondary, and we win.

Brian: 41-20 Huskers victory. Taylor gets the rust out, Ameer has 150 on the ground, and Nebraska cruises in the second half to victory and yell COME AT US BRO to Chicago for the Wildcats next weekend.

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