Lincoln – The Nebraska football team exorcised its demons to thwart a second-half Minnesota comeback attempt and roll to a 53-28 win over the visiting Gophers on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
The Huskers scored early and often against a Minnesota defense that stymied and slowed No. 3 Ohio State’s high-powered offense last week, as Nebraska notched its first win of the season to the delight 89,272 fans in the 365th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium. Roars of “Go Big Red” echoed through the crowd to cheer the Huskers off the field following Coach Scott Frost’s first victory as Nebraska’s head coach.
Nebraska’s 25-point win included several stat lines that stirred the echoes of days of Husker past, including three Big Red rushers each rolling up more than 100 yards on the afternoon. Senior running Devine Ozigbo erupted for 152 yards on just 12 carries with two long touchdown runs, including a career-long 59-yarder, to set the tone in the first half.
Video: KRVN’s Jayson Jorgensen and Sean Callahan discuss the matchup ahead of the game.
True freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez sprinted for a career-high 125 yards and a score on just 15 carries, including a career-long 57-yard run.
Fellow freshman Maurice Washington completed the triple 100-yard day for Big Red backs with 109 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. His three-yard plunge late in the game capped the most explosive offensive day for the Huskers since joining the Big Ten Conference in 2011. The last time Nebraska featured three 100-yard rushers came in a 56-21 win at Washington on Sept. 18, 2010, when quarterback Taylor Martinez and running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead each went over the century mark.
In fact, the 53 points scored by the Huskers were their most against a Big Ten foe since joining the conference and the most against any conference team since scoring 56 at Big 12 foe Kansas State on Nov. 15, 2008. It marked the most points scored by Nebraska against a Big Ten team since hanging 66 on Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, 2000.
Overall, Nebraska rolled up a season-best 659 yards of total offense, including 383 rushing yards on just 43 carries, averaging 8.9 yards per carry on the afternoon.
Adrian Martinez amassed more than 400 yards of total offense for the third time in six games to open his career, completing 25-of-29 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns. After completing 16-of-19 passes in the first half, Martinez went 9-for-10 passing for 152 with two touchdowns in the second half. He finished with 401 total yards, and his three games with more than 400 total-offense yards ties the Nebraska individual career record set by Joe Ganz.
Senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. also had a huge day, hauling in a career-best 10 receptions for 163 yards and two scores, including a 67-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach for the Huskers. Sophomore JD Spielman added eight catches for 77 yards and a score of his own.
While the offense shined, the defense stood strong against several Golden Gopher penetrations into the red zone. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Minnesota tried to cut into Nebraska’s 36-22 lead on 4th-and-Goal from the NU 3, but Dicaprio Bootle broke up Tanner Morgan’s pass attempt to Chris Autman-Bell.
Then Martinez and the Husker offense went on a 14-play, 82-yard march that consumed 7:03 off the clock and culminated with Barret Pickering’s 32-yard field to give Nebraska a 39-22 lead.
The Husker faithful erupted after the Pickering field goal and breathed a collective sigh of relief, but Minnesota was back on the Big Red’s doorstep seconds later after Demetrius Douglas’ 87-yard kickoff return to the NU 13. Minnesota started with a short field and 7:39 on the clock, but after a short pass was complete from Morgan to Autman-Bell, Blackshirt defensive back Aaron Williams deflected a Morgan pass that was intercepted by Blackshirt linebacker Dedrick Young II in the end zone to silence a golden opportunity for the Gophers.
Instead of trying to milk the clock, the attacking Husker offense ended any late comeback hopes for Minnesota. After a 13-yard run by Washington on the second play of the ensuing drive, Martinez hit a streaking Stanley Morgan down the middle of the field for a 67-yard touchdown that sent Nebraska fans dancing in the aisles.
Linebacker Mohamed Barry led the Blackshirts with 11 tackles on the afternoon, while safety Tre Neal contributed 10 stops and senior linebacker Luke Gifford added nine. Young pitched in seven tackles to go along with his interception.
The Huskers put together their best half of football this season, jumping out to a 28-0 lead before Minnesota got a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the final minute, as Nebraska took a 28-8 lead to the locker room at halftime.
The Huskers were on the attack from the opening kickoff, sprinting 75 yards in seven plays capped by Ozigbo’s 40-yard touchdown run to give the Big Red a quick 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
Minnesota crossed midfield on its opening drive and appeared to tie the score on Rashod Bateman’s 37-yard touchdown catch from Annexstad with 8:13 left in the opening quarter. However, that play was wiped out by the first accepted holding call by a Husker Big Ten opponent on a passing play in the last 22 games. The Blackshirts capitalized, forcing a punt on 4th-and-24 by the Golden Gophers.
The two defenses then exchanged stops, before Martinez and the Huskers went back to work. After a pair of short completions to Morgan and Spielman gave Nebraska a first down, Washington sprinted 17 yards to the NU 41 for another first down. On the next play, Ozigbo uncorked the longest run of his career and the longest run from scrimmage by a Husker this season, galloping 59 yards to paydirt to give Nebraska a 14-0 lead with 1:25 left in the first quarter.
The Huskers went to the second quarter without committing a penalty, the first time they played a penalty-free quarter this season.
In the second quarter, Martinez and the Huskers kept rolling by flying 85 yards in nine plays capped by a three-yard touchdown run from Martinez to push their lead to 21-0 with 11:40 left in the half. At the time, it was Nebraska’s biggest lead of the season but that mark would grow later in the quarter when Martinez hit Spielman on a nine-yard touchdown strike to cap a five-play, 72-yard drive to give the Big Red a 28-0 lead. The quick drive by Nebraska included a 57-yard run by Martinez, the longest run of his career.
Nebraska finished the half with 398 yards of total offense on 41 plays, including 274 rushing yards on 21 carries. Ozigbo led the Big Red with 139 yards on just seven carries, while Martinez added 89 yards on nine carries. Washington contributed 46 yards on five totes in the half.
Martinez went 16-of-19 for 124 passing yards and a score in the opening 30 minutes.
The Blackshirts held Minnesota to 172 total yards on 38 first-half plays, with 68 of those yards coming on the Gophers’ final drive of the half. The Huskers led at the half despite Minnesota owning a 16:28-13:32 edge in time of possession and a massive 38-16 edge in average starting field position for the Gophers in the first half.
For the game, Minnesota finished with a slight 30:58-29:02 edge in time of possession, but the Gophers still finished with an overall starting field position edge for the game of 38-19.
While the Huskers have struggled in the turnover and penalty departments throughout the first half of the season, Nebraska played Minnesota even in turnover margin with both teams committing just one turnover. Meanwhile, Nebraska was flagged for a season-best six penalties for a season-low 43 yards. Minnesota committed eight penalties for 80 yards.
Nebraska will shoot for its second straight home win next Saturday when the Huskers play host to Bethune-Cookman. Kickoff against the Wildcats is set for 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium with live TV coverage by BTN.
Nebraska 53, Minnesota 28
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (14-0)
13:04 – NEB – Devine Ozigbo 40 run (Barret Pickering kick), 7 plays, 75 yards, 1:56, NEB 7-0
1:25 – NEB – Ozigbo 59 run (Pickering kick), 4 plays, 90 yards, 1:10, NEB 14-0
Second Quarter (28-8)
11:40 – NEB – Adrian Martinez 3 run (Pickering kick), 9 plays, 85 yards, 3:08, NEB 21-0
1:58 – NEB – JD Spielman 9 pass from Martinez (Pickering kick), 5 plays, 72 yards, 2:25, NEB 28-0
0:52 – MINN – Demetrius Douglas 13 pass from Zack Annexstad (Matt Morse 2PAT run), 8 plays, 68 yards, 0:59, NEB 28-8
Third Quarter (36-22)
13:49 – MINN – Mohamed Ibrahim 1 run (Carpenter kick), 4 plays, 75 yards, 1:11, NEB 28-15
7:22 – MINN – Seth Green 4 run (Carpenter kick), 8 plays, 79 yards, 3:48, NEB 28-22
6:04 – NEB – Stanley Morgan Jr. 35 pass from Martinez (Morgan 2PAT pass from Martinez), 4 plays, 74 yards, 1:12, NEB 36-22
Fourth Quarter (53-28)
7:53 – NEB – Pickering 32 FG, 14 plays, 82 yards, 7:03, NEB 39-22
5:19 – NEB – Morgan 67 pass from Martinez (Pickering kick), 3 plays, 80 yards, 1:33 NEB 46-22
4:14 – MINN – Tanner Morgan 9 run (Morgan 2PAT run failed), 3 plays, 44 yards, 1:01, NEB 46-28