Nebraska finally could enjoy a fourth quarter lead in Big Ten play Saturday, cruising to a convincing 38-14 win over Minnesota.
The Huskers remain in first place in the Big Ten Legends Division (tied with Michigan, but still holding the tiebreaker). Beat Iowa on Friday, and Nebraska will play for a conference title in the league championship game on Dec. 1.
Pelini said his team gave a “complete effort” Saturday, jumping out to a quick 10-0 lead and building from there. Lots of positive vibes from Pelini, the assistant coaches and the players after the Huskers’ fifth-straight win.
Some highlights and notes are below. Plenty more coverage will be up on Omaha.com/BigRed shortly. Stay tuned…
>> Pelini indicated that senior Rex Burkhead still isn’t 100 percent healthy. That’s why the star I-back didn’t play in his final home game. “When the time’s right, you’ll see him,” Pelini said.
>> Defensive coordinator John Papuchis said he expected Minnesota to use quarterback Philip Nelson in the run game more often. He also planned to see ex-QB MarQueis Gray taking some snaps (Gray lined up behind center inside the red zone in the fourth quarter and scored two TDs). Papuchis said Nebraska was hesitant to bring heavy blitzes against Minnesota early on — just because it might open up the possibility of explosive plays in the QB run game.
>> Stopping the run was the main priority for Nebraska Saturday. The Gophers managed 3.0 yards per carry on 29 attempts. What worked well? Senior Cameron Meredith said the players were locked in well before gameday. “It’s attention to detail, the film that we watched during the week,” he said. “We knew how we could play these blocks, we knew where we needed to fit. And I think it really helped us out.”
>> Senior Kyler Reed said offensive coordinator Tim Beck began the week by rattling off Minnesota’s pass defense stats (Gophers ranked seventh nationally before Saturday). The players embraced that challenge, Reed said.
>> Why so many openings downfield for NU through the air? Said Reed: “Early in that game, (there was) a lot blitzing, cover-zero and cover-one. They were trying to stop our run. They were playing their safeties pretty deep into the box. … It was a lot of man coverage. I think that helped.”
>> Sophomore running back Ameer Abdullah spoke to the team Friday night, stressing the importance of playing well Saturday for the seniors. He said he’s embracing a leadership role.
>> Record book notables: Taylor Martinez is now the all-time passing leader at Nebraska (6,140 career yards). His stat-line Saturday: 21-of-29 for 308 yards and two touchdowns. … Kenny Bell now has more receiving yards this season (789) than any other sophomore in NU history. He’s 12th on the career catches list and has a reception in 23-straight games (third-longest streak by a Husker). … Abdullah’s now over 1,000 yards this year, at 1,021. It’s the third straight year a Nebraska player has reached that mark.
>> Video: Jon Nyatawa’s postgame analysis: