Despite Nebraska being favorites the last two seasons against Minnesota, the Gophers controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It was the difference in those two contests – Minnesota victories.
“They’ve got some really good interior D-linemen,” Minnesota guard Jon Christenson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune before Saturday night’s game. “The nice thing is, we’ve actually gone against them the last two years and pushed them all over the place. That definitely gives us a lot of confidence going in.”
The quote from Minnesota was all Nebraska’s defense needed on Saturday to flip the script - a little bulletin board material.
“That’s just a little fire for us, and it paid off,” Nebraska defensive tackle Vincent Valentine told reporters. “You never let anybody talk bad about you, no matter who it is. As a D-line, we took that personally and made it a personal challenge to make sure we went out and dominated.”
It wasn’t just the Nebraska defense front four that played well. The Nebraska offensive line played one of their best games of the season, if not the best. Running lanes were open. The pass protection was solid. Offensive linemen were getting to the second level.
“Our protection was pretty solid and we ran the ball well,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “They were really a hard slanting defense, which gave us some problems at times. We got crossed up and beat a couple different times.”
THE RETURN OF DPE
On Friday, an Omaha sports radio show “Unsportsmanlike Conduct,” asked Big Red Report if this was the week we would finally see Nebraska receiver De’Mornay Piereson-El break out. A foot injury sidelined the sophomore for the first four weeks of the season and his return against Illinois and Wisconsin was in a limited role.
On Saturday the reps went up and the production out of the sophomore was noticeable.
It started with him flipping the field on a 42-yard punt return in the first quarter, giving Nebraska great field position on a field goal drive.
It ended with him hauling in a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tommy Armstrong near the start of the four quarter that put the Huskers up 38-14.
“I think it takes the pressure off a lot of people,” said Pierson-El. “I think everybody gets a little excited to have me back out there.”
Pierson-El talked with reporters in the video above.
NU MEDIA RELATIONS GAME NOTES:
46 –– Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw for three touchdown passes in today’s game, giving him 46 career touchdown passes, moving him into second place on the Nebraska career touchdown pass list. In today’s game he broke a tie with Tommie Frazier (43) and passed Joe Ganz (44) and Zac Taylor (45) on the NU career touchdowns list.
261 –– Armstrong passed for 261 yards, marking his fifth 200-yard passing day of the 2015 season and his eighth in the past 10 games dating back to last season. Armstrong completed 18-of-26 passes on the day, including 15-of-20 for 216 yards in the final three quarters.
69 –– The 69-yard touchdown run by Terrell Newby in the first quarter was the longest play from scrimmage by Nebraska this season. The previous long play was a 55-yard run by Andy Janovich against Wisconsin, and a 55-yard pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. to Cethan Carter at Illinois. The run was also a career long rush for Newby, bettering a 43-yard run vs. FAU in 2014. Newby’s previous season long rush was a 32-yarder vs. South Alabama.
116 –– Newby rushed for 116 yards in today’s game, marking his third career 100-yard game and the second of 2015 (198 vs. South Alabama).
42–– Sophomore De’Mornay Pierson-El had a 42-yard punt in the first quarter, giving Pierson-El seven career returns of 40 yards or more. Pierson-El caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter for his first touchdown of the 2015 season.
203 –– Nebraska rushed for 203 yards, marking the Huskers’ third game with more than 200 yards rushing this season (258 vs. South Alabama, 242 vs. Southern Miss). Nebraska has rushed for at least 187 yards in five of seven games this season.
84 –– Junior receiver Alonzo Moore caught four passes for a career-high 84 yards. His previous career high was 48 yards against BYU earlier this season. Moore had a 32-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, marking his second straight game with a touchdown reception.
70 –– Nebraska allowed 65 rushing yards, marking the third opponent Nebraska has limited to less than 70 rushing yards (South Alabama, Southern Miss). Nebraska entered the game ranked eighth nationally against the run, allowing 95.3 yards per game.
4 –– Nebraska’s 23-point victory marked the fourth time Nebraska has won a Big Ten road game by more than 20 points. The Huskers’ other 20-plus point Big Ten road wins include 2011 at Minnesota, 2013 at Purdue and 2014 at Northwestern.
* Nebraska’s victory marked the Huskers’ 11th win in the past 12 matchups against Minnesota in Minneapolis. It was the Huskers’ 17th win in the past 19 games overall against Minnesota.
* Junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp caught six passes for 76 yards in today’s game. Westerkamp caught a pass for the 20th straight game, marking the eighth time a Nebraska player has caught a pass in at least 20 straight games. Westerkamp increased his career receptions total to 99, leaving him one reception shy of becoming the ninth Husker with 100 career receptions. With 76 receiving yards, Westerkamp passed Maurice Purify and Matt Davison to move up to eighth place on Nebraska’s all-time receiving yards list.
* Nebraska’s 16-play scoring drive in the second quarter resulting in a field goal was the Huskers’ longest of the season in terms of plays. Nebraska had a 14-play TD drive vs. Wisconsin last week.
* Nebraska’s 99-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter was NU’s first 99-yard touchdown drive since the 2014 Gator Bowl, when Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed a 99-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Enunwa. Nebraska’s previous long drive in terms of yards in 2015 was a 93-yard drive against Southern Miss.
* Junior wide receiver Brandon Reilly caught a 34-yard pass in the second quarter, marking his fourth reception of at least 30 yards this season.
* Cornerback Joshua Kalu intercepted a fourth quarter pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown. It marked Kalu’s second interception of the season, the third of his career and was his first career touchdown. Kalu’s touchdown marked the first time Nebraska returned an interception for a touchdown since Nov. 2, 2013 vs. Northwestern.
* Safety Nate Gerry added another fourth-quarter interception, his team-leading third interception of the year. Nebraska picked off two passes in the game after entering the game with only three interceptions through the first six games.
* Cornerback Jonathan Rose recorded a career-high-tying eight tackles, matching his eight tackles vs. South Alabama earlier this season.
* Tight end Cethan Carter caught a 10-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, marking his second career touchdown (2014 at Fresno State).
* Nebraska committed just one penalty for 10 yards, recording season lows in both categories.
* Senior wide receiver Taariq Allen made his first career start in today’s game.