Quick Hitter: The Gophs have improved

Nebraska fans shouldn't use the 2011 Minnesota Gophers as a model for this year. An improved team will be coming into Lincoln on Saturday.

LINCOLN, Neb. - Last year Nebraska ran for 346 yards on the ground against the Minnesota Gophers. Don't expect the running lanes to be quite as big on Saturday.

The (6-4) Gophers come to Lincoln sporting an improved defense under second-year head coach Jerry Kill. Minnesota is only giving up 22.3 points per game and is currently a top 25 team in total defensive yards allowed.

"They play hard. You know Coach Kill has those guys believing and playing hard. They are a more physical football team I think then they were a year ago and they are better," said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. "That's what you expect and more time under Coach Kill and his staff you see the improvement and you've got to give them a lot of credit. They are a good football team."

Despite being bowl eligible for the first time since 2009, when they played Iowa State in the Insight Bowl, the Gophers aren't satisfied with just six wins and will be looking to climb the bowl ranks with a win on Saturday.

"Now that we're bowl eligible, we're not done yet," said quarterback Phillip Nelson. "We want to keep winning and these next two games are important too, just like any other game."

Nebraska had five players rush for 30 yards or more against Minnesota last year, ultimately doing anything they wanted on offense. Players know it shouldn't be quite as easy in 2012 after watching film on Monday, even with an improved Nebraska offense.

"I have watched a couple of their games. They are much better than they were last year. They are a lot more physical," said Nebraska offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles. "They just play extremely hard and know what they are doing assignment wise. They definitely also know gap wise where they are supposed to be. There are a couple plays you see where something could have broke, but one guy made a good tackle in open space. They are definitely assignment sound."

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2008. He is now the Publisher of Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics.
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