The Nebraska Cornhuskers lost to the Minnesota Golden Gophers 54-21 on Saturday afternoon. Nebraska’s defense struggled against the Gophers, allowing 514 yards including 409 on the ground.
What it means
Nebraska football came into the game with a 4-5 overall record and 3-3 in the Big Ten. The Huskers were looking to secure a win against Minnesota and get one step closer to bowl eligibility. Coach Mike Riley even called the possibility of a bowl game “a carrot” this week, which would imply it served as motivation for the team.
Unfortunately, Nebraska’s defense struggled to stop Minnesota and put the Huskers in a fairly tough spot offensively. Compounded with quarterback Tanner Lee falling ill during halftime, Nebraska was in a bad spot overall.
The loss likely means Nebraska won’t get to a bowl game this season, unless the Huskers can pull off wins against Penn State and Iowa. It also makes it harder to justify keeping Riley. Athletic director Bill Moos was in Minneapolis to see the game firsthand.
3 things we learned
1. Nebraska’s defense continues to break
What a week it was for Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and his defense. Earlier in the week, Diaco criticized former defensive coordinator Mark Banker and the rugby tackling Nebraska used in 2016. Banker then responded, calling Diaco “full of it.”
Whatever the case, Diaco could have silenced his critics with a big game against Minnesota. Instead, the Huskers defense continued to break in one of the most disappointing performances yet this season.
For context, here is a look at Minnesota’s season averages:
- 23.4 points per game
- 319.2 yards per game
- 4.79 yards per play
By halftime against Nebraska, here is how Minnesota performed:
- 30 points
- 311 yards
- 8.9 yards per play
Minnesota came into this matchup as the 119th-ranked offense. It never looked like it against Nebraska, though. Even more so, Minnesota had not given up more than 27 points in Big Ten play this season, but the Gophers surpassed that quickly against the Huskers.
Diaco’s defense never was going to be a quick fix for Nebraska, but this is just painful at this point.
2. JD Spielman is special
Wide receiver JD Spielman was looked at by trainers before the game. He appeared to tweak his ankle and was being evaluated on the sidelines. Whatever was ailing him apparently didn’t last long. He came into the game and sparkled like he has so many times this season.
In the first half, Spielman had 6 catches for 85 yards. Those numbers helped Spielman set Nebraska freshman records for receptions, receiving yards and all-purpose yards. At half, he had 46 receptions, 677 receiving yards and 1,276 all-purpose yards for this season. He added 3 receptions and 56 receiving yards in the second half.
Spielman’s records surpass those set by Nate Swift and Ahman Green. Swift had 45 receptions and 641 receiving yards in 2005, while Green had 1,259 all-purpose yards in 1995.
3. Nebraska likely won’t go bowling
The last time Nebraska missed out on a post-season bowl game? It was 2007, and it was also Bill Callahan’s last season as the Huskers’ head coach. Ten years later, things feel a lot like that 2007 season.
If Nebraska fails to make a bowl game — and it feels pretty likely that will be the case — it will only be the 5th time since 1962. Yikes? Definitely, and it’s hard to see the season ending much different for the head coach than it did in 2007.
Oh, how history repeats itself.
Nebraska faces Penn State in State College on Saturday, Nov. 18, with a kickoff time yet to be determined. Time and TV information are expected to be released Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.