MINNEAPOLIS — Nebraska was embarrassed 34-7 on the road Saturday night in a game Minnesota dominated from start to finish.
P.J. Fleck’s offense out-gained Scott Frost’s 455-299, averaged 6.6 yards per carry and nearly had two 100-yard rushers. Gopher quarterback Tanner Morgan only needed to complete eight passes, five of which went to Tyler Johnson, who finished with 109 receiving yards.
Nebraska backup quarterback Noah Vedral completed 14 of 23 passes in his first start for 135 yards. He led the team with 49 yards rushing. Wan’Dale Robinson was carted to the locker room in the first half with a foot or ankle injury. He had six carries for 24 yards and two catches for 10 yards. Maurice Washington got the start at running back, but had just six carries for 20 yards.
Minnesota running back Rodney Smith ran for 139 yards, Shannon Brooks added 99, and Mo Ibrahim averaged 5.6 yards per rush on 15 carries and scored three touchdowns.
The first half was 14-0, but it really wasn’t that close.
The Gophers had no issues on the ground, running for 220 yards on 23 carries in the first 30 minutes. Nebraska, meanwhile, couldn’t find the end zone, couldn’t establish a run game and didn’t really have a chance.
Vedral took Nebraska down into the red zone on his first drive during his first college start — completing 4 of 7 passes, including an 11-yarder to Robinson on second down. But a 4-yard run on third down from Washington wasn’t enough to move the sticks, and Vedral’s fourth-down pass for Washington bounced off the wet turf for a turnover on downs.
Smith changed course at the line of scrimmage and ran for 35 yards to get the Gophers started, which set the tone for the entire first half. Minnesota averaged 14.2 yards per play en route to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Morgan to Chris Autman-Bell for 7-0 with 7:31 left.
NU’s second drive started with a flag — 12 men on the field — but JD Spielman made up for that with a 51-yard catch and run down the sideline. Minnesota then sacked Vedral on two straight plays, and first-and-10 turned into fourth-and-22 quickly, forcing an NU punt.
Nebraska stopped Minnesota on a third-and-9, and escaped disaster after Caleb Tannor jumped on a fumble by Spielman on the punt return. Yet again, Vedral got NU across the 50 but couldn’t move much further.
Fifteen of Nebraska’s first 25 plays were run on Minnesota’s side of the field. They produced zero points.
Brooks took off for 25 yards on first down for the Gophers. Minnesota bullied Nebraska on the drive, with runs of 7, 15, 10 and then another 15 from Ibrahim to the end zone for 14-0. Fleck’s squad averaged 12.1 yards per carry on its first 11 touches.
Vedral hit Jack Stoll on third-and-8 to keep the next drive going. Robinson was hit low on an end-around and was helped off with an injury. He was later carted off the field to the locker room.
The Blackshirts finally forced a punt, and Vedral got the ball with a chance for a two-minute drill.
The Huskers went three-and-out.
Minnesota ran the clock out up two scores.
Frost told the Husker Sports Network the first half was “just dumb” and he let his team have it in the locker room. He then had his team run plays at halftime, rather than just warm up lightly.
That didn’t spark much change.
On play one of the half, Morgan hit Johnson in the middle of the field for a 45-yard catch and run. On that play, Cam Taylor-Britt walked off with an apparent shoulder injury.
Minnesota pushed Ibrahim into the end zone for 21-0 a few plays later.
Dedrick Mills was stuffed on third down, then Frost called a fake punt on fourth down, but Austin Allen was stuffed just before the line of scrimmage.
A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Khalil Davis put the ball at the 8-yard line. Three Brooks carries later, and Minnesota made it 28-0 with 3:16 left.
Six more points were tacked on after a 45-yard pass from Morgan to Johnson to put the ball at the 1-yard line. Ibrahim punched that one in for the five-score lead.
Vedral led Nebraska on a 15-play drive that ended with a 2-yard Mills touchdown to make sure the Huskers weren’t shut out. Lane McCallum made the extra point for 34-7.
Andrew Bunch came on for the final few drives, but it didn’t produce much.
Nebraska is now 4-3.