LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — If Nebraska needs any extra incentive to pick up its elusive first win Saturday, players who were on the field against Minnesota last year need only remember what happened in that game.
The Gophers (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten), who visit Memorial Stadium on Saturday, rushed for 410 yards overall and also scored two touchdowns in the last 8 minutes in a 54-21 win.
“They kind of ran it up,” running back Devine Ozigbo said.
To be fair, Nebraska (0-6, 0-4) didn’t put up much resistance in that game or, for that matter, the next two when Penn State and Iowa each hung 56 on the Huskers.
Linebacker Mohamed Barry is among seven members of the 2018 defense who started on that crisp afternoon in Minneapolis when the Gophers gashed the Huskers for 9.1 yards per carry.
“Oh, yeah. I’m motivated as heck,” Barry said. “I’m ready for this game and stopping the run, because that was a big factor. No. 24 had a good game against Ohio State. I think he had newcomer of the week for the Big Ten. So shutting him down, shutting that run down will be vital. Something that I will take pride in doing this week.”
Barry was referring to redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim, who ran for 157 yards in a 30-14 road loss to the then-No. 3 Buckeyes. He probably will get most of the work again. Shannon Brooks has been medically cleared to return from his knee injury, but his status was uncertain after his arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic assault following a confrontation with a male roommate last weekend.
Nebraska is coming off a painful 34-31 overtime loss at Northwestern. The Huskers blew a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter in their program-record 10th straight loss. A loss Saturday would mark the first time since 1957 they’ve dropped seven in a row in the same season.
“You cannot look at this team and look at a record,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “This team could easily be 5-1, 4-2, easily. They have lost on strange oddities. If I would tell you stories of how they lost watching these games, you’d be like, no way. This team is averaging close to 400, 500 yards of offense a game.”
MOOS SEES IMPROVEMENT
Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said in an interview he sees the Huskers getting better under first-year coach Scott Frost even though they haven’t won.
“It’s not a panic situation,” Moos said. “We have the blueprint, we know what has to be fixed and it isn’t just on the roster or in the playbook. A lot of it has to do with addressing the infrastructure and building blocks needed to be perfected to be a champion. I’m talking about nutrition, strength and conditioning and recruiting, and it goes on and on and on. I’m very confident that in time this is going to be a fabulous program with great results.”
HE’S A LOAD
Minnesota will start 6-foot-9, 400-pound freshman right tackle Daniel Faalele for the second straight week. Freedom Akinmoladun, at 6-4 and 295 pounds, will be the primary Nebraska defender matched against him. According to Associated Press research, Faalele is the biggest offensive lineman on an FBS depth chart.
JD Spielman, who grew up in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was one of Nebraska’s few bright spots in last year’s game. The son of Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman caught nine passes for 141 yards, and his 291 all-purpose yards were most by an FBS freshman in 2017. Spielman is third in the Big Ten with 89.5 receiving yards per game.
Nebraska’s 10.2 penalties for 96 yards per game are worst in the Big Ten. Minnesota’s 4.0 penalties for 43.2 yards rank second.
IMPROVED RUN DEFENSE
Minnesota allowed 315 rushing yards and 8.5 per carry at Maryland on Sept. 22. Since then, the Gophers have limited Iowa to 106 rushing yards and 2.7 per carry and Ohio State to 92 yards and 2.9 per carry.
A YOUNG MAN’S GAME
Each team starts a true freshman quarterback. The Gophers’ Zack Annexstad has completed just 50 percent of his passes (44 of 88) with four touchdowns and seven interceptions over the last three games, all losses. Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez has flashed game-breaking abilities as a runner and passer but also has been inconsistent.