The Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-3) — playing their first game since Nov. 20 after a COVID-19 outbreak that precipitated a two-week layoff from practice and forced them to play Saturday’s game with a total of 33 players sidelined for various reasons — went into Memorial Stadium and outplayed the Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-5) in a 24-17 victory.
The Gophers retain the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy as a result.
Minnesota opened up a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, capitalizing on sophomore safety Tyler Nubin intercepting a deflected pass from Luke McCaffrey with a 26-yard touchdown run by Mohamed Ibrahim on 4th & 1. On their next possession, redshirt senior Mankato transfer kick Anders Gelecinskyj hit from 31 yards for the first field goal of his career at Minnesota.
But Nebraska punched back in the second quarter. Wan’Dale Robinson broke loose for a 47-yard run up the middle to set up the Huskers inside the red zone, leading to an eight-yard touchdown pass from Adrian Martinez to tight end Austin Allen that cut the Gophers’ lead to 10-7. After the Blackshirts turned away the Minnesota offense on 4th & 8 from the Nebraska 27, Martinez led a 13-play, 73-yard touchdown drive, capped by seven-yard Martinez run for the go-ahead score.
With three minutes left on the clock, Minnesota redshirt freshman running back Cam Wiley sprinted 61 yards down the sideline to Nebraska 14-yard line on the first play of the drive. The drive nearly stalled on 3rd & 14, but Huskers cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt was flagged and ejected for targeting after a laying a hit on Tanner Morgan, giving the Gophers a fresh set of downs. Morgan found tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford in the end zone to re-take the lead, 17-14.
In the third quarter, neither team scored. Nebraska did drive down to the Minnesota 14 before missing a 32-yard field goal attempt, and Minnesota had yet another drive end with a turnover on downs, this time on 4th & 3 from the Nebraska 36. But in the final 30 seconds of the quarter, Boye Mafe strip sacked Martinez on third down and the fumble was recovered by Thomas Rush to set up the Gophers in positive territory. Minnesota was able to capitalize on a one-yard Ibrahim touchdown plunge on 4th & Goal, pushing their lead to 24-14 in the fourth quarter.
With less than five minutes left in regulation, the Huskers cut the score to 24-17 on a 30-yard field goal at the end of a drive that saw a previous field goal attempt erased by an offsides penalty that gave them a fresh set of downs and then a Martinez touchdown run called back by a holding penalty. But Minnesota stopped their attempted rally in its tracks by eating up the final 4 minutes and 42 seconds of the game thanks in large part to Mohamed Ibrahim. The Gophers’ workhorse running back gashed the Huskers on the final drive, and even had the presence of mind to stop short of the end zone in the final minute to allow Minnesota to run out the clock.
The Gophers will find out on Sunday who they will face in the Big Ten’s Champions Week.