Nebraska: 24 Minnesota: 17
Offensive Player of the Game: Tommy Armstrong Jr.
How can you not tip your cap to the senior leader? After getting cleared to officially play just hours before kickoff, the senior from Texas injured his ankle and also tweaked his hamstring tonight. The quarterback still found a way to get the win with his go-ahead 13-yard touchdown run. Armstrong showed just how much he wants to win in his performance tonight, finishing 19-of-27, for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Game: Kevin Maurice
The senior defensive tackle played a great game up the middle and was a big reason Nebraska held Minnesota to just 85 yards on the ground. Maurice also led the defensive line with eight tackles. His biggest stop was early in the fourth quarter on a 3rd and short to force a punt. The following drive Nebraska scored the go-ahead touchdown.
The Moment It Was Over:
The Blackshirts came up with a big turnover when they needed it the most. Aaron Williams tipped the ball into Kieron Williams’ hands with 1:29 left near the end zone to halt Minnesota’s final drive. A couple of knees later and the Huskers survived a close one.
Quote To Note:
"Tommy is the toughest dude I've ever been around. He's going to have any type of injury and he's gonna come back. Like a lot of quarterbacks, what happened to him last week, (they) would not have been playing this week. That dude is definitely a warrior. People can say what they want to say about him, but I wouldn't rather go to war with any (other) dude in college football." – Nebraska safety Kieron Williams
What A Nebraska Win Means:
Nebraska’s win improves their record to 8-2 and 5-2 in the Big Ten. The Huskers should climb a few spots in the College Football Playoff rankings with some upsets this week. Nebraska also still has hope of winning the Big Ten West and advancing to Indianapolis with one more Wisconsin loss.
* Nebraska has shown a reoccurring pattern of not recognizing primetime players in the passing game. Northwestern’s Austin Carr had eight catches, and last week, Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel also recorded eight receptions. In their game today, Minnesota’s Drew Wolitarsky followed the theme of eight catches for a total of 90 yards. The Blackshirts need to be able to recognize a play-maker and shut him down.
* Mike Riley showed once again that he has…guts. The head coach elected to go for it twice on 4th and short. Both attempts were successful and the result of the first play was a 30-yard touchdown reception from true freshman running back Tre Bryant. Nice calls coach.
* Penalties are still a problem for Nebraska and nearly costed them the game. The Huskers ended the game with eight penalties for a total of 81 yards, compared to Minnesota’s two for 15 yards. Perhaps their worst penalty was getting flagged for 12 men on the field on a punt return coverage, which eventually led to Minnesota’s first touchdown.
* Minnesota finished the game going 8-of-16 on third down conversions, but it felt like every scenario in which the Blackshirts needed to get a stop, they could not. Third down defense has been a big weakness for Nebraska, and was extremely evident last week, where they did not force a single punt from Ohio State. Though they improved this week, the Huskers allowed way too many third down conversions.
* Freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn recorded a -2 yard punt. What was worse than the punt was the fact that he dropped his head in frustration instead of trying to track and down the ball. The punt resulted in a field goal for Minnesota to end the first half.
* Special teams are always the biggest wildcard each week for this Nebraska squad, and tonight, De’Mornay Pierson-El was shaky returning punts. After getting flagged for being the 12th man, DPE’s following sequence of punt returns were all questionable, and it appears it could be a psychological issue. The junior called a fair catch with room to run, did not call a fair catch with four defenders in his face, and with a chance for a big return, he ran backwards after picking up a few yards. In an area that can be a big-play threat, Nebraska needs to clean up their special teams.
* Tommy Armstrong’s three touchdowns on the night now has him tied with Eric Crouch for most career touchdowns with 90. His 43rd career start also ties Taylor Martinez for most career starts by a Nebraska quarterback.
* Senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp had a great night offensively, ending the game with six catches for 50 yards. He is now the third player in Nebraska history with more than 150 career receptions, and has caught at least one pass in 34 straight games. If he continues this theme, the Illinois native will pass Johnny Rodgers for most consecutive games with at least one catch in school history.
* True freshman running back Tre Bryant reached the end zone on a 35-yard touchdown catch on a 4th down attempt. This was Bryant’s second career touchdown, his first through the air. Fans also saw Bryant shift into another gear and he displayed some breakaway speed to pick up six. This kid could do big things in his career at Lincoln.
* Sophomore offensive lineman Jerald Foster made his first career start tonight, after returning from what was believed to be a season-ending knee injury. The Lincoln native played the entire game and helped Nebraska pick up 157 yards on the ground and only gave up one sack.
* The Huskers trailed at half for the fourth consecutive home game and have rallied to win in all four. Nebraska outscored the Gophers 7-0 in the fourth quarter, once again displaying that they own the final quarter. Their win marks their 19th straight home night game win, dating all the way back to 2008.