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Nebraska 41 … at Minnesota 14

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 22, 2011


Week 8 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Nebraska at Minnesota


2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 8 - Nebraska at Minnesota

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Oct. 22 Nebraska 41 … at Minnesota 14
CFN Analysis: Nebraska rolled at will against the hapless Gophers with a powerful running game that had few problems putting the game away immediately. Rex Burkhead ran for 117 yards and a score, and while he didn’t take off for many big dashes, he was steady and productive every time he touched the ball. Taylor Martinez threw for 162 yards and a score, with Minnesota concentrating almost solely on the run, and like Burkhead he ran well, even without many big dashes. The defense didn’t have any problem with an offense that didn’t have any life or pop; it didn’t give up a score until late in the third quarter when the Huskers were already up 34-0. When the game mattered early on, the defense didn’t allow the Minnesota offense to move. With a two game winning streak, everything is working just in time for a huge date against Michigan State. Beat the Spartans, and then the Big Ten title dreams are fired up again.

MarQueis Gray tried to run, taking off for 67 yards and a score, but he couldn’t generate anything for the passing game, the offense didn’t move early on, and the game got out of hand. With no passing attack to rely on to get back in the game, the Gophers didn’t have a chance when the Nebraska running game was rolling at will. This is the third straight blowout in Big Ten play with Iowa coming up next, and the offense is getting worse and less effective. The defensive front isn’t getting into the backfield and Gray isn’t making anything happen down the field. Against Iowa, it’s time to start taking a few more deep shots just to see if something can open up. Da’Jon McKnight is a playmaker who isn’t getting the ball in his hands, catching just two passes for 77 yards. The coaching staff has to find more ways to get him the ball on the move.

(AP) MINNEAPOLIS -- Nebraska piled up the yards like Tom Osborne's teams from back in the day, and all coach Bo Pelini could think about was how much better Rex Burkhead and Co. could have been.

The demanding coach sees the potential in these Huskers, and Pelini wasn't about to be satisfied with a dominant victory against an overmatched opponent.

Burkhead rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown and No. 13 Nebraska racked up 346 yards on the ground in a 41-14 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.

"We had a lot of yards," Pelini said with a shrug. "I thought there was a lot of things we needed to get cleaned up. I would give us probably somewhere around a 'B' in how we played in the run game."

The Huskers (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) took over TCF Bank Stadium in their first trip to the Twin Cities since 1989. More than two-thirds of the stadium was filled with red-clad Nebraska backers, and they had plenty to cheer about.

Taylor Martinez threw for 162 yards and a touchdown and Austin Cassidy returned a fumble for another score in the Huskers' first game since losing star defensive tackle Jared Crick to a season-ending injury.

"When you shut a team out in the first half, it doesn't matter who you're playing, it feels good," Cassidy said.

MarQueis Gray was 9 for 18 for 122 yards for the Golden Gophers (1-6, 0-3), including just 2 for 8 for 9 yards in the first two quarters. Minnesota has been outscored 144-31 in three Big Ten games this season, including a 58-0 loss at Michigan and a 45-17 defeat at Purdue.

After Bill Callahan tried to bring more of a pro-style offense to Lincoln, Pelini has returned the Huskers to their power-running roots that made them perennial title contenders under Osborne. Martinez chipped in 52 and Kenny Bell added an 82-yard reverse for a score.

The woeful Gophers defense managed to hold Nebraska to a couple of field goals deep in their own territory early in the game. But the Huskers eventually got their high-powered ground game going.

Nebraska scored its first touchdown thanks to a bizarre play on fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 13. The Gophers collapsed the line on the option dive, so Martinez pulled it and pitched it left to Aaron Green. The pitch was high and Green couldn't handle it, but he knocked the ball forward and it landed out of bounds ahead of the first down marker.

After a short conference, the officials spotted the ball there because it was a backward pass, therefore marking it where it landed out of bounds, and not where the muff occurred.

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill protested vehemently, but to no avail.

"I didn't understand the rule myself," Pelini said.

Martinez hit Tyler Legate for a 10-yard TD pass two plays later to make it 10-0.

That seemed to suck the life out of the heavy underdogs. Bell scored on his reverse on the next drive and Cassidy returned Gray's fumble 11 yards to make it 27-0 with under 10 minutes to play in the first half.

"I think we're getting used to what type of offense we are and what we're going to become," Martinez said. "I think we're doing a great job."

Burkhead's 4-yard touchdown dive right before halftime made it 34-0, but Pelini will have plenty of things to point out on film to keep his players from getting too confident.

Nebraska twice had to settle for field goals in the first half after driving inside the Minnesota 5, once because of a bad pitch from Martinez to Burkhead that went for a loss of 7 yards and once when Burkhead was stuffed by cornerback Kyle Henderson on an option pitch to the right.

And the few times Martinez tried to throw the ball down the field, the passes were rarely close to the intended receivers. Two good ones were dropped by Bell and Jamal Turner.

"We had some repeat errors and didn't get some hats on hats," Pelini said. "I'll put it this way, we left a lot of big plays out there today."

The one bright spot for the Gophers offense came in the third quarter, when Gray hit Da'Jon McKnight on a 53-yard pass off of a double-reverse flea flicker to set up Gray's 1-yard TD run. The score snapped a streak of 145 straight points for the Huskers in the series against Minnesota. The Huskers won 56-0 in 1990 and 48-0 in 1989.

"We have no room for error and we certainly don't need to help anybody (with mistakes)," Kill said. "We can't overcome that."

Nebraska (5-1) at Minnesota (1-5) Oct. 22, 3:30, ABC/ESPN2/ESPN3

Here’s The Deal … In 1983, Turner Gill, Mike Rozier, and Irving Fryar led a Nebraska team that came into the Minneapolis Metrodome and scores 21 points in each quarter on the way to a squeaker of an 84-13 victory. That’s been par for the course in a matchup that’s been a wee bit one-sided in the past.

This is the first meeting since 1990 – a 56-0 Husker romp. Over the last ten games between the two schools, Nebraska has gone 10-0 winning by a total score of 489 to 45. That’s an average score of 49 to 4.5, and this game might not be that close if Minnesota doesn’t show something more than it has in the last few weeks.

The Nebraska inaugural Big Ten season tour goes about six hours up the road to Minneapolis for a chance to come up with its first Legends division win. With two weeks off after turning the season around with a tremendous comeback to beat Ohio State, now comes the breather before dealing with a battle with Michigan State in the game that might decide the division title. With the shaky first half against the Buckeyes, and with the way they were blown away by Wisconsin, the Huskers could use a nice, easy conference win to tune things up a bit. It’s time to start dominating, but do they have the ability to do it?

If Minnesota isn’t the worst BCS conference team, it’s in the running after getting destroyed the last two games on the road at Michigan and Purdue by a combined score of 103 to 17. At 1-5 in an ugly and disastrous first season under head coach Jerry Kill, the Gophers have to find something positive to build on and need to show some signs of life over the second half of the year. Even though Wisconsin is coming up soon and there’s a nasty date at Michigan State coming up in a few weeks, three of the next four games are at home and it’s time to start taking more chances and trying to open things up a bit. Neither side of the ball is doing much, but quarterback MarQueis Gray is healthy again, the team got two weeks off to prepare, and now it gets a chance to try to turn things around with what would be the program’s biggest win since beating Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2005.

The two schools have met 51 times with Nebraska winning the last 14 going back to 1960. Welcome to what might be a decent new geographic rivalry if the Gophers can raise their game a bit.

Why Nebraska Might Win: Minnesota’s offense hasn’t just fizzled, it’s gone into the tank. It’s not like Michigan and Purdue are Alabama and LSU, but the Gophers couldn’t move the ball with just 213 yards of total offense against the Boilermakers and 177 against the Wolverines. The biggest problem has been a passing game that can’t move the chains and can’t do anything on third downs. Long drives have been few and far between and scoring points has been like pulling teeth. It shouldn’t take too many points for the Huskers to put the game away. As soon as the Gophers have to start throwing the ball, it could be over.

Can Minnesota stop the Nebraska running attack? Overall the run defense hasn’t been too bad, but it wasn’t even close against Michigan with the linebackers constantly out of position and totally unable to slow down Fitzgerald Toussaint and a ground game that tore off 363 yards and five scores. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead are rested, and if the Husker offensive line can play like it did in the second half against Ohio State, the ground attack should go ballistic.

Why Minnesota Might Win: The Nebraska defense has been lousy, and now it’s without its star for the rest of the year. It’s not like the Husker line was doing anything great, and Jared Crick was having an uncharacteristically mediocre season, and then he was knocked out with a torn pectoral muscle against Ohio State. If Minnesota was ever going to get the ground game moving, this might be the week if Gray can start to play up to his potential and the O line can find something that works on the inside. The Nebraska line isn’t generating any pressure, and stunningly this year, it can be pushed around.

Yes, the Husker O line was frothing-at-the-mouth great in the second half against Wisconsin, but it’s been hit-or-miss all season long and it’s been one dimensional. Pass defense has been the Gopher D’s biggest issue, but that won’t be a problem against a Nebraska passing game that’s not efficient and not effective with nothing coming from the receivers and Martinez not throwing well. With two weeks to prepare, Minnesota might be able to figure out how to sell out and key on Martinez from taking off. Stop Martinez, and you stop Nebraska.

What To Watch Out For: Rex Burkhead has run for over 100 yards seven times in his Nebraska career. The Huskers are 7-0 in those games, including two weeks ago when the junior ran for 119 yards against Ohio State and after tearing off 170 yards and two scores against Wyoming and 120 yards and two touchdowns against Washington. He’s not all that big and looks like everyone’s kid brother, but he runs hard and has a knack for getting through the hole in a hurry and getting to the secondary when he gets the ball in space. Minnesota will key on stopping Martinez first, but that means the secondary has to be ready for No. 22 when he takes the pitch.

While Minnesota continues to try to figure out its quarterback situation, it needs senior Duane Bennett to be a steadying force. The 5-9, 210-pounder saw his workload as a runner fall off the map last year after ripping off 187 yards in the opener against Middle Tennessee and 104 yards against South Dakota, and this year, he’s been struggling to find any room to move with just 250 yards on 68 carries. His lone score came in the opener against USC. In desperate need of anything that works, watch out for the Gophers to start feeding Bennett early on to see if he can have any success up the middle against the shockingly average Husker line.

What Will Happen: It’s not exactly the Big Red Machine rolling into Minneapolis, but Nebraska shouldn’t have too many problems as long as the offensive line can recapture a little bit of the magic it showed a few weeks ago. As bad as things have been for Nebraska, it’s still 5-1, and no matter how the team has looked, 6-1 is 6-1.

CFN Prediction: Nebraska 37 … Minnesota 17
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Nebraska -24.5   O/U: 56.5

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