Nebraska vs. Minnesota: 10 Things We Learned in Cornhuskers' Loss
The biggest college football upset of the weekend comes from Minnesota, as the Golden Gophers knocked off Nebraska 34-23 at home. It was the first win for Minnesota in this rivalry since 1960, and it sure threw a monkey wrench into the Big Ten title race.
Few saw this result coming, and it's forcing everybody to reevaluate the rest of the Big Ten conference.
But what did we learn from this game?
Well, Nebraska isn't completely out of the Big Ten championship discussions, Minnesota may actually have a decent quarterback and somebody is on the hot seat.
The Streak Comes to an End
Minnesota and Nebraska haven't crossed paths every season, but they did play each other enough for the Cornhuskers to string together 16 straight wins against the Golden Gophers.
The Golden Gophers haven't topped the Cornhuskers since 1960. If you are younger than 50 years old, you have never witnessed Nebraska lose to Minnesota. The rivalry has been so lopsided over the years that it includes a 71-point win in 1983 and a 56-point win in 1990.
Only four of those 16 wins were decided by single digits.
The nightmare has finally come to an end for Minnesota fans.
Philip Nelson Isn't Bad After All
Philip Nelson will never enter any Heisman discussions and is more of an athlete than an actual quarterback. But on Saturday, he was just what Minnesota needed to help pull off the upset.
The sophomore signal-caller produced three touchdowns while passing for 152 yards and rushing for 55 yards. He made all seven of his pass completions count, including a 33-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Engel in the second quarter.
Again, the numbers aren't jaw-dropping and the overall play sometimes isn't pretty, but if he can continue to play this efficiently and make plays when needed, Minnesota may have a promising young quarterback.
Ameer Abdullah Remains the Best Kept Secret
Nebraska fans know who he is, and so do diehard college football fans.
But why is Ameer Abdullah never mentioned as one of the top running backs in the game? Instead, all you hear about are SEC workhorses and Pac-12 speedsters. It's time the junior gets a little more credit for what he's done.
Saturday, Abdullah was one of the few bright spots for Nebraska offensively, rushing for 165 yards on 19 carries. It's the fourth straight game in which he's topped the century mark and the sixth time this season.
Nebraska has a stud in the backfield who will continue to fly under the radar following a losing effort.
Nebraska Had a Top-10 Play
Speaking of Ameer Abdullah...
This leap over a Minnesota defender should end up on ESPN a few times during the weekend. It may also help cheer up a few Nebraska fans who still can't get over the fact that their team lost to the Golden Gophers.
You can't be mad at that effort and athleticism.
Nebraska's Defense Still Can't Get off the Field
It's no secret that Nebraska has a struggling defense that sometimes may not be able to cover a box spring. Ranked ninth in the Big Ten heading into this matchup, the Cornhuskers were allowing more than 400 yards per game.
Minnesota will help add to that total with 430 yards, including 271 rushing yards. Running back David Cobb was the workhorse who rushed for 138 yards on 31 carries and simply wore down the Cornhuskers' defensive front.
The touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach went eight plays and took 3:44 off the clock.
If you want to be a Big Ten contender, you must have a defense that can get stops when needed. Nebraska clearly doesn't have that at the moment.
Taylor Martinez Is Still Jekyll and Hyde
Taylor Martinez saw his first action since the UCLA game on Saturday, as the senior missed the last three games with a toe injury.
He came out firing on all cylinders, finishing the first half 11-of-17 for 101 yards.
Then came the second half, where he completed only five pass attempts and had an interception in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Martinez finished the game 16-of-30 for 139 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 16 yards.
Was he 100 percent? Of course not. But even when healthy, while he does a nice job of making plays, he can also disappear for long periods of time. He wasn't the playmaker Nebraska needed on Saturday.
Minnesota Is Improving Fast
It's time to start giving Minnesota a little love for the way it's been playing recently. With this win, the Golden Gophers improve to 6-2 on the season and have won the last two games. Surprisingly, both recent wins came against conference contenders in Northwestern and Nebraska.
Are you awake?
Minnesota isn't a flashy team and it doesn't have the best athletes in the world, but it is finding ways to win. On Saturday, the defense forced two turnovers and the running game racked up more than 250 yards.
The Golden Gophers likely won't play for a Big Ten title, but they will certainly end the season on a positive note and give other contenders a hard time.
Nebraska Will No Longer Be Ranked
You could have made a case heading into this game that Nebraska shouldn't have been ranked. What have the Cornhuskers done? The only ranked team they've played all season, UCLA, ended in a 20-point loss.
A boring resume just got that much more lifeless and isn't going to appeal to the voters or computers. Nebraska's return to the AP poll was short-lived.
There's Still a Chance for a Big Ten Title
The good news for Nebraska fans is that there is still a chance to return to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Nebraska only trails Michigan and Michigan State in the Legends Division by one game. The 'Huskers will have a chance to make up that ground with a meeting against both teams in a couple of weeks. If they can win both contests and then run the table the rest of the way, Nebraska will reach the big game for the second straight season based off of the tiebreaker.
Of course, winning in Ann Arbor and knocking off a defensive juggernaut in Michigan State isn't easy. However, the entire season shouldn't be blown up just yet after this heartbreaking loss.
Bo Pelini Is Back on the Hot Seat
Most Nebraska fans were able to forget about the 2011 audio that surfaced in September. Will they be able to sweep this loss under the rug as well? Possibly, but it doesn't make Bo Pelini's job any safer heading into the homestretch of the season.
Nebraska hasn't won a bowl game since 2009 and has pretty much underachieved the last few years with all of the talent on the roster. The team doesn't look inspired, plays soft on both sides of the ball and could very well finish the season with four or five losses for the sixth straight season.
Pelini will have a few more chances to turn things around with Northwestern and Michigan coming up, but his leash is getting shorter and shorter.