Published Saturday, November 17, 2012 AT 10:39 PM / Updated at 10:44 PM
Nebraska-Minnesota: Tracking the offense, defense
Rich Kaipust Omaha World-Herald

World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust takes a look at Nebraska’s effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers’ 38-14 win over Minnesota.

* * *

TRACKING THE OFFENSE

NU star: Nebraska’s leading receiver had a nice game as Kenny Bell caught a career-high nine passes for 136 yards, with a 36-yard score in the first quarter and a 30-yarder in the third. All eight of Bell’s touchdown catches this season have covered 25 yards or more. He had just two receptions last week and no game with more than six so far this season.

Highlight: The Huskers made it look easy on the five-play, 63-yard drive that gave them a 17-0 lead in the second quarter. Three of the plays resulted in first downs — including the 29-yard pass from Taylor Martinez to Bell — and I-back Imani Cross scored immediately on first-and-goal from the 3.

Busted play: Nebraska was turnover-free until I-back Ameer Abdullah lost a fumble with 11:29 left in the third quarter. The strange part is that Abdullah just seemed to lose the handle during a short run without getting hit.

Our take: It was an impressive performance until midway through the third quarter, but the sloppy finish had something to do with the Huskers leading 31-0 and Martinez not taking a snap in the fourth quarter. Martinez threw the ball well from the start — sitting at 15 for 18 for 205 yards late in the first half — and was utilizing the talents of Bell and Jamal Turner. The biggest first-half downer was probably getting stopped at the goal line as time expired.

* * *

TRACKING THE DEFENSE

NU star: Nebraska might not have a better player week-to-week on its defense than Ciante Evans. The junior nickel and cornerback had six unassisted tackles in the first half, including a sack, and led the Husker pass defense that completely shut down freshman Philip Nelson after his 5-for-5 start.

Highlight: Immediately after the NU offense coughed up the football in the third quarter, the defense got it back with safety Daimion Stafford’s second interception in as many weeks. The play started with Josh Mitchell having solid coverage on Andre McDonald downfield, and Stafford was there for the pick when the ball popped into the air.

Busted play: Nebraska didn’t initially react well after the Gopher quarterback change from Nelson to Max Shortell, allowing the sophomore to run for 14 yards on his first play and then connect with McDonald for a 26-yard pass play on his next.

Our take: The Huskers had a potential shutout in their sights until Shortell led Minnesota to its first score with 7:39 left in the game. They didn’t allow the Gophers a first down on six of their first eight possessions, and the visitors had just 112 total yards when Shortell entered the game. NU played the pass well again (10 for 28) and Minnesota was just 1 of 13 on third-down conversions.

About Rich Kaipust

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football. You can follow Rich on Twitter (@RKaipustOWH) or email him at rich.kaipust@owh.com