Saturday, November 17, 2012
Nebraska clobbers Minnesota 38-14
By Brian Bennett
Michigan keeps winning, but it doesn't really matter with the way Nebraska is playing.
It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Huskers aren't in Indianapolis in two weeks for the Big Ten championship game. They absolutely dominated Minnesota 38-14 in their final home game on Saturday, finally putting together a complete effort that didn't require a comeback.
If Nebraska can play half as well as that next week against what has become a dreadful Iowa team, the Legends Division trophy will reside in Lincoln. Even on the road, a Huskers loss next week would qualify as one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Big Red made sure there would be no such upset this week against the Gophers. They were terrific from the get-go, building a 24-0 lead and limiting the Gophers' offense to just 60 yards in the first half. It only got worse from there, as Nebraska led 38-0 before putting in the second stringers.
We've been waiting to see what Nebraska could do offensively if it could limit its turnovers and slow starts. This was a pretty good example.
The usually-butterfingered Huskers' starters lost only one fumble, but got it right back when Daimion Stafford grabbed an interception on the very next play. Though Nebraska didn't have its typically large rushing figures, Taylor Martinez threw for 308 yards on an efficient 21-for-29 afternoon and got an early rest for the first time in a long while. Kenny Bell had one of his best games, with nine catches for 136 yards and two scores.
The defense was even more impressive, keeping Philip Nelson (8-for-23, 59 yards) and the Gophers attack searching for answers all day. The Blackshirts were all over Minnesota's pass routes. Stanley Jean-Baptiste returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown. Until the middle of the fourth quarter Minnesota was 0-for-11 on third downs and didn't crack 100 yards of total offense. The Gophers never mounted a credible scoring chance until the Huskers' backups came in the game late.
It was a disappointing day for Minnesota, which has unfortunately become used to being blown out by Nebraska in its history. But this was always going to be a very difficult game on the road for the Gophers. They did what they needed to do last week in getting bowl eligible and will have a chance to knock off a reeling Michigan State club next week at home.
After last week's win over Penn State, Nebraska players and coaches said they believed this team hadn't yet hit his peak. If this performance is an indication, the Huskers are still getting better at the right time of the year.