Gopher Football was seeking a "signature win" this season. Today they earned it with easily the biggest win for the program since 2005 when Glen Mason secured the Little Brown Jug at Michigan. And I'm having trouble remember the last great Gopher win at home. This was a defining win over a ranked team on your home field where you get to celebrate with your fanbase.
Tracy Claeys had this to say about today's victory. "I think this victory says a lot about our kids. We talkeda bout how Nebraska had two weeks to prepare and we're not sure what we're going to see from the other team, and Nebraska came out right away and got after us. Our kids kept staying positive.
I told the team to play hard and do their job and when they look up in the fourth quarter they're going to have an opportunity to win and sure enough we did."
The Gophers and Nebraska have played each other 53 times dating back to 1900. Overall Minnesota came into this afternoon's game with a 29-22-2 advantage but the series has been absolutely dominated by the Cornhuskers over the last 16 games, dating back to 1960. Recent scores of 56-0, 48-0, 41-14 and 84-13 have been indicative of the lack of competitiveness this series has been over the last few generations. The way things started today it looked like this was going to be another snoozefest.
Nebraska opened the game with a 6-play, 69 yard touchdown drive that was highlighted by a 42-yard completion to Kenny Bell and was then capped with a Imani Cross 2-yard run. The Gophers answered with a 3-and-out. And Nebraska then scored a FG to go up 10-0 after just under 8 minutes of game time. It appeared as though this was going to be another Nebraska dominated game.
But that is when something changed on the Gopher sideline. The Gophers took their 2nd drive marched 75 yards on 13 plays and scored a touchdown on a Mitch Leidner 1-yard sneak. The 2nd quarter was all Minnesota. The Gophers outgained Nebraska in the 2nd quarter 142 - 74 and outscored them 10-3 taking a 17-13 lead into halftime.
Overall the Gopher's domination of the stat sheet was reflected in the final score. 430 yards of total offense, 270 on the ground and the team never waivered, even as Nebraska scored on back-to-back 2nd half possessions to bring the score to within 4 points. A tremendous stand by the Gopher D when Nebraska was pinned at their own 10. That was followed by the game-capping touchdown drive to take an 11-point lead with under 20 seconds in the game. That score essentially put Nebraska away, but a Jeremy Baltazar interception sealed it and allowed the Gophers to line up in the victory formation.
Looking for stars of the game is not exactly difficult but the list is fairly long.
- Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner both made positive contributions to the win.
- RaShede Hageman made a few monster plays in the backfield with a sack and two TFLs
- Damien Wilson was active and making big plays throughout the game.
- Freshman, Donovahn Jones made a few big plays getting four rushing attempts for 44 yards.
- Drew Goodger had 3 receptions for big gains in the 3rd quarter.
- David Cobb had his second consecutive 100 yard game with 138.
- Derrick Engle made a great touchdown catch in the second quarter to give the Gopher's their first lead against Nebraska since 1964!
Great team effort and a tremendous win. A signature win. What I love most about this win is that it wasn't one where we had to hang on for dear life as Nebraska marched down with an opportunity to win the game. Not this game, the Gopher defense forced a big 3-and-out and the offense followed it up with a game-capping touchdown drive to finish the game. No moral victories, no blown opportunities; they overcame mistakes and put away a good team.
Your Gophers are bowl-eligible and I don't think there can be any debate that this program is heading in the right direction.