Missed opportunities hurt Huskers in 30-23 loss to Minnesota
By Patrick Donnelly
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tanner Morgan threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns and Bryce Williams rushed for 127 yards and another score on Saturday as Minnesota defeated Nebraska 30-23.
The Gophers dominated the first half, taking a 21-9 lead behind near-perfect passing from Morgan. But Nebraska (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) flipped the script in the second half, forcing two interceptions to get back into the game. However, a number of missed opportunities prevented the Huskers from taking the lead and allowed Minnesota (4-2, 2-1) to hang on.
Given short fields twice in the third quarter after Minnesota punts, the Huskers drove deep into Gophers territory but came up empty both times. First, the Gophers defense made three consecutive stops at the goal line to force a turnover on downs. Then Nebraska kicker Connor Culp missed a 27-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Huskers faced another decision midway through the fourth quarter when it was fourth-and-10 from the Minnesota 34. Trailing 21-16, Nebraska head coach Scott Frost elected to go for it, but a heavy pass rush forced an incompletion and another turnover on downs.
That led to the game’s key sequence. On the ensuing drive, the Gophers punted instead of electing to go for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield. On first down from his own 11, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez was wrapped up in the end zone by Esezi Otomewo. Martinez threw the ball away but was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety that made it 23-16.
Minnesota got the ball back after the safety and pushed its lead to 30-16 on a 56-yard touchdown run by Bryce Williams with 2:12 to play.
Offensively, the Gophers were practically flawless in the first half. They scored touchdowns on three of their first four drives. The only blemish came early in the second quarter, after Minnesota had driven to the Nebraska 33. On second-and-8, the Gophers tried a trick play — a double-reverse flea flicker — that Huskers cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt blew up for a 12-yard loss. That possession ended with Minnesota missing a 50-yard field goal.
Morgan was 14-for-15 for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He went on to set a school record with his 16th consecutive completion early in the third quarter, though his streak was snapped when Taylor-Britt picked off his next pass in the end zone.
Morgan’s next pass was intercepted, too, and this time the Huskers took advantage. Safety Deontai Williams’ pick set up Nebraska at the Gophers 45, and three plays later Rahmir Johnson scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run to cut Minnesota’s lead to 21-16.
Nebraska: Culp, the reigning Big Ten kicker of the year, had a rough outing on Saturday. Despite making a 50-yard field goal, he missed an extra point in addition to pushing a 27-yard field goal attempt wide. Those misses loomed large as Frost kept his offense on the field twice on fourth downs in Minnesota territory.
Minnesota: The Gophers were playing their first game without running back Trey Potts, who became the main man in the backfield when Mohamed Ibrahim, the Big Ten’s leading rusher last year, was lost for the season in Week 1. Potts had three straight 100-yard games before suffering a season-ending injury against Purdue. On Saturday, Williams appeared to be the next man up, finishing with 127 yards on 17 carries.
Nebraska: The Huskers are off until Oct. 30, when they host Purdue.
Minnesota: The Gophers host Maryland on Saturday afternoon.