Martinez back, No. 25 Nebraska loses to Minnesota
Taylor Martinez missed three straight games because of an
injury. Returning Saturday against Minnesota, he showed the rust to
Martinez was outdueled by Gophers sophomore Philip Nelson, who
rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another, in a 34-23 upset
of No. 25 Nebraska, the Cornhuskers’ first loss to Minnesota since
The Huskers (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) went 3-0 in Martinez’s absence,
but the victories came over FCS foe South Dakota State and Big Ten
also-rans Illinois and Purdue.
He returned Saturday from what he described as an injury to the
second and third toes on his left foot that he initially suffered
in the season opener against Wyoming and has sidelined him since
the Huskers’ game against UCLA on Sept. 14.
But the Gophers (6-2, 2-2) held him to only 16 yards rushing on
eight attempts and 139 yards on 16-for-30 passing, with one
touchdown and one interception.
”Right now I just have to feel good enough to tolerate it, and
I felt good enough to tolerate it,” Martinez said. ”I felt good
out there running – we just didn’t execute very well on both sides
of the ball.”
The Huskers’ offense was hampered by Martinez’ erratic throwing
and the absence of senior right guard Spencer Long, lost for the
season with a knee injury in their last game. But coach Bo Pelini
pointed out that there was plenty of blame to go around
”Taylor was the least of our problems,” Pelini said. ”The
inconsistency we had up front, we didn’t get into a rhythm. We
weren’t very good on early downs, which hurt us. And the amount of
dropped passes we had was inexcusable. Those kill drives.”
The most damaging of those missed opportunities came late in the
final seconds of the first half, when Martinez’s pass to a
wide-open Kenny Bell in the back of the end zone sailed high and
slipped through Bell’s fingers. Instead of a game-tying 25-yard
touchdown, Nebraska had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Pat
Smith that cut its halftime deficit to 17-13.
Although Ameer Abdullah rushed for 165 yards on 19 carries for
Nebraska, the Gophers outgained the Huskers 271-189 on the ground.
David Cobb gained 138 yards on 31 rushes for Minnesota, including
12 carries in the fourth quarter as the Gophers wore down both the
Cornhuskers and the game clock.
Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover used Wisconsin’s
70-31 win over Nebraska last December as a blueprint for how his
team could move the ball against the Huskers using sweeps and
”I hate to pick open old wounds, but we watched the Big Ten
championship game a lot. I’ll just be honest with you,” Limegrover
said, adding: ”We knew we just couldn’t pound it, so we wanted to
get some things going sideways.”
Nelson, who had eight carries for 55 yards, spun across the goal
line from the 1 with 48 seconds left to seal the victory for the
Gophers, who became bowl eligible and stopped a 16-game losing
streak to the Huskers.
Nebraska grabbed the momentum on the opening drive when Martinez
hit Bell in stride for a 42-yard completion and Imani Cross
finished the six-play drive with a short touchdown run. The Gophers
went three-and-out, and the Huskers followed with a 45-yard field
goal by Smith to make it 10-0.
But the Gophers withstood Nebraska’s uppercut, and midway
through the second quarter, on fourth-and-10 from the 33, Nelson
flicked a perfect pass over the top of the defense to an
outstretched Derrick Engel. He tumbled into the end zone for a
14-10 lead, the Gophers’ first over the Huskers in this series
The Gophers had gone 11 straight matchups with the Huskers,
including each of the last two years as Big Ten games, without
holding a lead, let alone getting a win.
The Huskers settled into a bit of a rhythm at the end of the
third quarter, fueled by a 35-yard, twisting-and-spinning run by
Martinez to set up a short touchdown pass to Sam Cotton that cut
Minnesota’s lead to 27-20. The thousands of red-clad Nebraska fans,
who filled at least one-third of the 50,000 seats, snapped to life
But the Gophers relied on Cobb and a resurgent offensive line
the rest of the way to grind out the clock and bury the
”We just got pushed and we didn’t tackle well,” Pelini said.
”On defense, we had way too many breakdowns. . I’m talking basic
football that we couldn’t execute and didn’t execute. This game
comes down to blocking and tackling and we didn’t do that very