A Dragan Kesich 47-yard field goal as time expired gave the Gophers a 13-10 win over Nebraska to start the season 1-0 and Minnesota keeps the Broken Chair. An unusual and unlikely win but Minnesota extended its winning streak over Nebraska to 5 games.
A start to the season between two teams with a number of significant questions. Perhaps none of those questions were answered but ultimately Minnesota made fewer key mistakes and came away with the win.
Turnovers are often a key indicator of the game’s outcome and that was absolutely true at Huntington Bank Stadium tonight. Nebraska had 2 turnovers in the first half that took points off the board and 2 more in the second half that resulted in points for Minnesota.
Very late in the first half, with the Gophers holding a 3-0 lead, Nebraska drove to the Minnesota 1-yard line. A Husker false start pushed them back to the 6 and then Jeff Sims was intercepted by Tre’Von Jones in the end zone. The Gophers held the lead going into the half.
Nebraska opened the 2nd half with a long kickoff before scoring 2 plays later on a 34-yard pass play from Sims to Alex Bullock. It was a trick play that ended up being a broken play that ended up being a touchdown. Sims handed the ball off to the running back who ran right, turned to throw a pass back to Sims who fumbled the throw, picked it up and hit a wide-open Bullock in the end zone. The broken coverage gave Nebraska a 7-3 lead. They added an early, 4th quarter FG (again, after a false start inside the 10), and their 10-3 lead looked to be enough.
The Gopher offense had been largely anemic throughout the evening. The offensive line struggled in passing and running situations, and the rushing game never got going. So the offense rested on the arm of Athan Kaliakmanis. The redshirt sophomore had 44 attempts on the game, completing 24 and throwing for 196.
The defense forced a 4th quarter fumble giving the Gopher offense their best field position of the night and they finally broke through. The drive was basically all passing (7 of the 9 plays) and on 4th and 10 from the 13 Athan Kaliakmanis hit Daniel Jackson for the game-tying touchdown.
Nebraska took the ball with 2:32 left and started to drive. But Tyler Nubin read Sims perfectly, broke on a 2nd down pass from the 46 and got his second interception of the game.
Once again the Gopher defense set up the offense with great field position and this time all they needed was a field goal. The drive started at the 49 with 58 seconds. A few short passes, a sack, a false start and then the best run by a Gopher running back of the night put the ball on the Nebraska 29. And from there it was Kesich who nailed the 47-yard field to secure the win.
The game left a number of questions still to be answered. The Gopher running game left a lot to be desired tonight and special teams had their share of issues as well. But you will take 1-0 in spite of those mistakes.
Up next, the Gophers get Eastern Michigan next Saturday night at 6:30.