World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust breaks down the Huskers’ play on both sides of the ball during NU’s 34-23 loss to Minnesota.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
The game plan: Nebraska was content with throwing the football when Minnesota came out ready to load the box, and NU coaches liked their chances with one-on-one situations against the Gophers. The Huskers started out trying to get their playmakers the ball in space with some short throws to Alonzo Moore, Jamal Turner and Kenny Bell, and by halftime, the Huskers had thrown it more than they had run it.
The adjustments: NU stuck with its early approach after halftime, throwing on five of its first six plays. Those didn’t go well — the Huskers twice went three-and-out. And overall they finished just 16 of 30 passing and averaged 4.6 yards per attempt.
NU star: Despite the Gophers’ focus on the run, I-back Ameer Abdullah was able to pick up 165 yards on 19 carries. The junior posted his sixth 100-yard game of the season.
Stat of the game: You wouldn’t find it in the official final stats, but the Huskers were probably in the range of a half-dozen dropped passes. That’s back-to-back games with a significant number of them for a normally sure-handed bunch.
Final word: The combination of some stalled drives, a costly Abdullah fumble, the drops and lack of steady success on first down caught up to the Huskers after a promising 10-0 start. Martinez didn’t look explosive running the football, other than a 35-yard run in the third quarter, and the missed connections in the passing game led to a shaky completion rate (53.3 percent). As a result, NU had its second-lowest scoring total of the season.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
The game plan: Nebraska knew it would have to go toe-to-toe with a physical, no-nonsense Minnesota offense, and Husker coaches said they were ready for all the shifts and motions. The Gophers just mostly won up front on their way to 271 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns and 5.0 per carry.
The adjustments: Nebraska never really found an answer for the Gophers’ jet sweep, a bad flashback to Wisconsin’s assault on the Husker defense last December in the Big Ten championship game. The Huskers also let Minnesota tight ends slip free and hurt them with play-action passes at inopportune times.
NU star: Hard to spotlight one defender when the overall effort wasn’t very good, but defensive end Avery Moss was active (four tackles, three solo) and helped apply pressure on Minnesota quarterbacks.
Stat of the game: The Gophers never had to face third down on a 13-play, 75-yard drive in the first quarter after they had fallen behind 10-0. They also never went to third down on a touchdown drive early in the third quarter until quarterback Philip Nelson scored on third-and-goal from the 3.
Final word: Not a lot of good to be found after Nebraska failed to force a turnover and allowed 430 total yards to the 11th-ranked offense in the Big Ten. Most damaging might have been the Gophers passing for 159 yards — they came in averaging 117.7 — despite completing just eight throws. The work continues after NU had showed some progress the previous two games.