Update: Gophers run past #25 Nebraska for upset win, gain bowl eligibility
The Sports Xchange
MINNEAPOLIS -- David Cobb ran 31 times for 138 yards and Minnesota used an effective, ball-control ground game to defeat No. 25 Nebraska, 34-23, on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Gophers rushed for 271 yards, using a variety of shifts, motion and personnel groupings that bothered a Nebraska defense that was allowing an average of only 157.5 rushing yards per game.
Minnesota (6-2, in the 2-2 Big Ten) won its second straight game under acting coach Tracy Claeys and made itself bowl eligible for a second straight season.
Nebraska (5-2, 2-1) had won three straight games to re-enter the rankings last week, but its time in the Top 25 apparently will be short-lived.
The Huskers, behind running back Ameer Abdullah, who finished with 19 carries for 169 yards, built an early 10-0 lead but trailed, 17-13, at halftime and never got closer.
The Huskers welcomed the return of senior quarterback Taylor Martinez, who had not played since Nebraska's 41-21 loss to UCLA on Sept. 14. Martinez, showing signs of rust, passed for 139 yards, threw an interception and was sacked four times.
Martinez's 35-yard run in the third quarter, his longest of the season, helped him finish with 16 net rushing yards.
Minnesota scored twice in the third quarter to open a 27-13 lead. Philip Nelson scored on a one-yard sneak, capping a five-play, 38-yard drive, and Chris Hawthorne kicked a 45-yard field goal after the Gophers started at their 13-yard line.
Nebraska answered behind Abdullah, who ran five times for 34 yards on the Huskers' ensuing drive, setting up Martinez's three-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Sam Cotton with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Pat Smith kicked his third field goal of the day, this one from 33 yards, to pull Nebraska within 27-23, and the Huskers regained possession with 5:50 remaining in the game at their own nine-yard line.
But the Huskers were unable to gain a first down, and Minnesota, taking advantage of a 27-yard punt, drove the short field for a game-clinching touchdown in the final minute.
Nebraska, coming off a bye, looked strong and crisp to start the game. The Huskers needed only six plays to cover 69 yards on their game-opening touchdown drive.
Nebraska's defense then forced a three-and-out, and Pat Smith made a 45-yard field goal on the Huskers' ensuing drive for a 10-0 lead.
That's when Minnesota put its ground game to work.
The Gophers ran 12 times on a 13-play drive that covered 75 yards and lasted 6:45, then covered 88 yards on seven plays, scoring touchdowns both times for a 14-10 lead and taking the lead for good.
NOTES: Nebraska tackle Andrew Rodriguez wore No. 61 in place of injured All-American guard Spencer Long, who is out for the season because of a knee injury. A different lineman will wear Long's number in each remaining game this season. ... Minnesotacoach Jerry Kill, on medical leave, attended Saturday's game and watched from the coaches' box. Tracy Claeys served as acting head coach for the Gophers' third straight game. ... Minnesota ended a 16-game losing streak to Nebraska, defeating the Huskers for the first time since 1960. It's only the third time the teams have met as Big Ten opponents.