The Minnesota Gophers had not defeated Nebraska since 1960, a streak that spanned 16 games including a 1983 drubbing that saw the Huskers eek out an 84-13 win at Metrodome. Forget all of that. Despite falling behind 10-0, the Gophers mounted an impressive comeback, outscoring Nebraska 34-13 the rest of the way and picking up their second straight Big 10 win at TCF Bank Stadium.
""I think this victory says a lot about our kids," said acting head coach Tracy Claeys. "We talked about how Nebraska had two weeks to prepare and we're not sure what we're going to see from the other team, and Nebraska came out right away and got after us. Our kids kept staying positive, though and we moved the ball while taking some time off the clock and allowing the defense to regroup. I told the team to play hard and do their job and when they look up in the fourth quarter, they're going to have an opportunity to win and sure enough we did."
With head coach Jerry Kill watching from the press box for the second straight week, the Gophers opened up the playbook, but pounded the Huskers on the ground to the tune of 271 yards rushing. David Cobb finished with 144 yards on 31 carries, and Philip Nelson scored twice on the ground and picked up 55 yards on 8 carries.
Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover cited watching film of last seasons Big 10 championship game in giving the Gophers the game plan to work the outside edges and not just try to pound the ball inside. The game plan worked to perfection as the Gophers were aggressive on first down and produced an average of 8 yards per play on first.
"Everyone was excited about the game plan," said Philip Nelson. "You know it's a great game plan when everyone is excited about it. We knew going into this week that Nebraska is the type of a defense that you can't let get comfortable so that is where all the trade, shifts and motions came into play and we were able to keep them on their heels."
Nebraska scored on their opening drive going 69 yards in 6 plays including a conversion on 3rd and 14 that extended the drive. Imani Cross rumbled in two yards after being set up by a Taylor Martinez bomb to Kenny Bell.
After a Nebraska field goal, the Gophers got on the board with their most impressive drive of the season, a 13 play beauty that resulted in a one-yard Mitch Leidner touchdown run. The drive amassed 75 yards and saw the Gophers march down the field on the ground.
Similar to the game plan that worked against Northwestern, Philip Nelson came in for a series in the second quarter and never relinquished the job. Nelson led the second quarter drive that finished with a 33 yard touchdown pass to Derrick Engel on fourth down.
"When the play call came in I knew I was the go-to on that play," said Engel. "Philip put a good ball up there, and at first I thought it was going to be overthrown, but it hung in the air. So I stuck a foot and put my hands up and the next thing I knew it was a touchdown."
With the win, the Gophers become bowl eligible for the second straight season. A year ago, the sixth win came in the second to the last game against Illinois but with a month left in the season, Claeys and the Gophers are in reevaluation mode.
"A year ago we celebrated the sixth win because it was late in the season. We had Nebraska and Michigan State left a year ago, but now we have our sixth win in October and we can reset our goals. We're going to work hard and set out to do something better than what we have done in the past."
Nelson finished the game 7-of-15 in the passing game for 152 yards but looked as good as he has in his Gopher career with where he placed the ball. In the final two drives, Nelson's receivers dropped sure catches which would have made the stat line and the game a bit more easy.
"There were some missed opportunities," said Claeys. "That comes with the ebb and flow of the football game, but we'll show the team the video and look to get better."
The second straight conference win evens the record at 2-2 in the Big 10 and has given a boost in confidence to a program with question marks after disappointing losses to Iowa and Michigan. Those games seem about 10 years ago and the team has a newly found confidence as they head down the stretch.
"We spent all last week thinking that we weren't here in 1960 and we had nothing to do with those losses from long ago," said Claeys. "The past has nothing to do with how we play today as long as we play hard and smart and we did that today."
After being away from TCF Bank stadium for nearly a month, the Gophers will hit the road once again and travel to Indiana before returning home to face Penn State and Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks.