Game Day: Nebraska vs. Minnesota

Chasing a carrot

What’s left to play for? What’s the carrot? For the Huskers, it's a bowl game. Nebraska hasn’t missed the postseason since 2007. It’s only missed a bowl game twice since 1968. That's their motivation.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Minnesota rush defense

The Golden Gophers are in full rebuilding mode on defense, and the run defense in particular has taken some lumps. In Big Ten play, Minnesota is allowing 5.41 yards per carry and 209.3 rushing yards per game. Its front seven, though stout in the middle, frays on the edges. Nebraska’s run game, which has been hot and cold in league play, will benefit from having the same starting lineup two weeks in a row. Running back Devine Ozigbo is built for bad weather and Jaylin Bradley may also return to the lineup.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Minnesota pass defense

Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee threw three interceptions vs. Northwestern, snapping a string of four straight excellent performances. Minnesota’s pass defense — which has faced only 24.8 attempts per game in Big Ten play, and thus appears stingier than it really is — will try to play underneath zone coverage and bait Lee into another mistake. The Huskers’ trio of top receivers — Stanley Morgan, De’Mornay Pierson-El and JD Spielman — will get some chances, especially if Minnesota loads the box to stop the run.

Minnesota rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

In Year 1 of the PJ Fleck era, the Gophers have a clear identity: Run the ball downhill with a diet of read option and receiver jet sweeps mixed in. Good defenses tend to stuff it, while bad defenses get worn down over four quarters. Nebraska’s run defense has been porous for weeks, and coach Bob Diaco’s recent comments about the expectation for his unit can’t possibly be encouraging to his players.

Minnesota pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

The Gophers have completed all of 59 passes in Big Ten play, and quarterback Demry Croft has connected on just 39.5 percent in conference games. While Nebraska’s pass defense has consistently struggled, the Huskers should have safeties Antonio Reed and Aaron Williams back in the fold, which will help. Plus, Minnesota is one of those pass offenses where, on third down, you can get after the quarterback, who’s not likely to burn you. Minnesota receiver Tyler Johnson (32 catches, 620 yards, seven touchdowns) is a dynamic deep threat.

Special teams

It’s basically a wash among the kick coverage units — Nebraska has the better kickoff guy in Drew Brown, Minnesota has the better punter in Ryan Santoso — but the Huskers have a slight edge in kickoff return with Spielman. The Gophers have struggled badly in league play with field position after kickoffs.

Intangibles

Minnesota is in Year 1 of PJ Fleck’s "Row The Boat" infomercial, and even if the team has taken a dramatic step back from last season — when the Gophers finished 9-4 — Fleck will get time to turn it around in Minneapolis. Players seem on board with Fleck’s calisthenics and bravado, but it’d be fair to wonder whether Husker players feel the same about their head coach, Mike Riley, and specifically Diaco, whose oddball comments seem to be more about everything other than the job he’s doing.

Key matchup: Minnesota’s run game vs. Nebraska’s run defense

If Nebraska stops Minnesota’s run game, the Huskers almost certainly win. The Gophers’ passing game hits the occasional big play, but Diaco is so freaked out about giving up one of those that he allows a few rushing yards to guard against it. If his bend-don’t-break system traps the Gophers, Nebraska wins. But don’t expect that.

Our take

On a weekend full of big, fun football games, here’s a game the nation will forget — a morning kickoff with a chance of snow between two 4-5 teams. The fan turnout is not likely to be good. The motivation may be low. Somehow, Nebraska will have to pull out of a sluggish orbit, ignore the bizarre comments of the defensive coordinator and just plow ahead. Minnesota is not very good — perhaps, in total, worse than Nebraska — but has to smell victory here. Look for an ugly game that concludes in a tough loss for the Huskers.

Our prediction: MINNESOTA 24, NEBRASKA 21

Live updates

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Minnesota matchup provided by the Husker Athletic Department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History Database is your new home for archiving one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs. Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks. Plus, look back at historical moments in Nebraska football by following @HuskerHistory on Twitter.

BRT app

IPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Unwavered: Even in cloudy times for Husker football, Mike Riley always sunny

The Nebraska coaching job can age a man like the American presidency has aged men, and Mike Riley wears all of the three years — and then some — that he’s been at Nebraska. He left a place he knew…

Shatel: Mike Riley was a good face for Nebraska, not a good fit for football program

When I see Mike Riley, I see tears. There are any number of images, memories, crammed into Riley’s three years at Nebraska. But I will always go back to Saturday morning, July 30, 2016.

Pospisil: Nile Kinnick is remembered for his many accolades, but not even the record books recalled his six picks against NU in ’38

On this Thanksgiving Throwback Thursday, let’s go back to 1938. It was a miserable season by Nebraska standards. With a win and a tie after seven games, coach Biff Jones’ second year in Lincoln was guaranteed to end with the…

Omaha South grad Noah Fant has Hawkeyes' TD record for a tight end; he wants it for all positions

Noah Fant has goals for the rest of his football career at Iowa, big enough that they’d make him one of the all-time great Hawkeyes. The sophomore tight end from Omaha South already owns Iowa’s single-season record for touchdown catches…

Huskers in coaching déjà vu: Several players were there in 2014 for the last firing of NU football coach

For Nebraska’s upperclassmen, it’s happening again. A Black Friday game against Iowa. Speculation about the coach. A potential firing. Not easy stuff.

Husker notes: NU freshman JD Spielman 'still questionable' for Iowa game; Senior Day in Lincoln and more

One of Nebraska's most explosive playmakers is the only Husker whose status is in doubt against Iowa for the Black Friday season finale.

Former Husker Scott Frost, UCF cooling speculation with undefeated season on the line

UCF coach Scott Frost finished his postgame television interview and made his way toward the tunnel behind the corner of the end zone at Lincoln Financial Field.

Carriker Chronicles: Trash talk, three keys and a prediction for the Nebraska-Iowa game

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Wednesday's episode, Carriker is joined by one of his kids to present the prediction championship belts, give his three keys and a prediction for Nebraska's Black Friday…

Husker notes: Another Antler success story; One more time for David Knevel and more

Nebraska senior captain and inside linebacker Chris Weber is the latest in a line of Elkhorn High School graduates who joined NU’s team as walk-ons and earned scholarships by their final seasons. Spencer Long, Jake Long, Trevor Roach and Graham…

Pick Six Podcast: Why Iowa is a rival; the need to win; if not Frost, then who?

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Evan Bland tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the Nov. 14 episode of the "Pick Six Podcast."

Iowa notes: Hawkeyes still have plenty of motivation; Ready for Nebraska and more

Iowa started the month with a shocking 55-24 rout of No. 3 Ohio State. It followed with disappointing losses to Wisconsin (38-14) and Purdue (24-15). With one game left in their regular season, the Hawkeyes (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten) are…

Q&A with Kearney Catholic grad and Husker walk-on Thomas Connely

Thomas Connely also was a 2017 pick for the Brook Berringer and Tom Osborne Citizenship Teams and has volunteered his time with Uplifting Athletes, Souper Bowl of Caring and local hospital visits.

Carriker Chronicles: Official prediction for who will be Nebraska's next coach

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Tuesday's episode, Carriker makes his official prediction for who will be coaching the Huskers next year.

The price of failure: Husker football’s 3-year revolving door may cost $16.4 million in payouts to coaches, A.D.

If and when Riley is replaced, UNL will be paying three current and former football coaches and two athletic directors, all at once.

Stanley Morgan's motivation goes beyond record game; NU wide receiver ‘owes everything’ to mother

Cyril Crutchfield called a timeout and motioned for his offense to huddle around him. The St. Augustine High School drumline tapped a cadence into the muggy evening. Air horns chirped and fans danced on the metal bleachers, adding a constant…

Husker notes: Mike Riley embraces rivalry; Injury update; Tanner Lee says NFL talk can wait

Nebraska has been reluctant to embrace having a natural football rival over the years.

With his Husker clock ticking, receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El in no hurry in final media session

De’Mornay Pierson-El kept egging the media on.

Press conference, Nov. 20: Mike Riley says Nebraska has to find way to stop Iowa running attack

Iowa isn't having the season that it expected running the football, but that doesn't leave Nebraska with any less respect for what the Hawkeyes can do on the ground.

Video: Nebraska athletics press conference

Watch live Monday morning beginning at 10:45 a.m. as Nebraska coaches Tim Miles, John Cook and Mike Riley take the podium to discuss their teams.

Shatel: De'Mornay Pierson-El lit the fire for Huskers' rivalry with Hawkeyes

This series has a chance to be a good rivalry. It’s already got a spark.

Amid disappointing season, Husker fans are no longer glued to the tube

On Saturday, longtime Husker fans were picking up groceries at Walmart or Christmas shopping at Westroads Mall instead of settling into the couch in front their flat screen TVs.

Barfknecht: NU's struggling defense vs. Iowa's struggling offense — tickets won't fly off the shelf

Interest might be higher in seeing how many fans show up — and what the red and white vs. black and gold mix is — than the outcome of Iowa and Nebraska's game on Black Friday.

Carriker Chronicles: If not Scott Frost, who else could be coaching the Huskers next year?

All year round, Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In Sunday's episode, Carriker evaluates who else could be on Nebraska's radar if Scott Frost goes a different route.

McKewon: Even with little help, Tanner Lee looks like pro prospect

If Joe Ganz deserved credit for making the very end of the Bill Callahan era mildly enjoyable, so does Tanner Lee, especially one week after a concussion.

Pride and going out the right way motivating Huskers’ veteran players

Nebraska's seniors have been on an emotional ride during their time with the Huskers.

Second quarter a perfect display of Nebraska's inconsistency

Nebraska’s season can be summed in the second quarter Saturday.

Barfknecht's Big Ten rankings, Nov. 20

World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten football teams, as published in The World-Herald on Nov. 20.

Pride in Lions’ Den: Down 32 at half to Penn State, Huskers get consolation with five second-half TDs

The Blackshirts gave up more than 50 points in a game for the third time this season as Nebraska suffered its seventh loss of the year in a 56-44 defeat Saturday at Penn State.

Shatel: Tanner Lee's performance makes you wonder, 'What if?'

There’s one more game left to play this season, maybe one more game left in Tanner Lee’s limited Nebraska career. But it’s hard to imagine this not being a snapshot we keep of Lee and store wherever it is we’ll…

Husker notes: Tanner Lee productive in return; Off-field distractions; Another fourth-down call

In a way, it’s lucky. Because at this point in the season, the quarterbacks don’t throw much during practice.