Minnesota Gophers improve to 4-2, keep the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy in MPLS
Here's a look at how the preview of this game went for Birdman's Blog: "This will be a close game throughout and my prediction is Minnesota will win at home 26-20. (Literally every site I looked up has Nebraska winning this matchup and all those people are a bunch of stupid idiots. Nebraska continues to be bad under Scott Frost and they still don't know how to win.)" The final score was 30-23, as the Gophers were able to hold off the Nebraska Cornhuskers, yet again. The $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy will stay in Minneapolis for the 5th time in the 8 matchups since the trophy came into existence and Minnesota now leads the all-time series, 35-25-2.
QB Tanner Morgan went 20-24 with 209 yards and 2 touchdowns, including setting the school record with 16 consecutive completions. RB Bryce Williams came out of friggin' nowhere to run for 127 yards, including a 56 yard touchdown to essentially seal the game. The first half was dominated by the Gophers as we went into half with a 21-9 lead. The first touchdown pass came from the 5 yard line, in the Wildcat formation, when QB Cole Kramer faked the run up to middle before pulling up and connecting with TE Brevyn Spann-Ford for the touchdown in the back of the endzone. Early in the second quarter, QB Morgan dropped an ABSOLUTE DIME to WR Mike Brown-Stephens for a 28 yard touchdown pass in the back left corner of the endzone while being triple-covered. Later in the second quarter, WR Chris Autman-Bell caught an INCREDIBLY athletic 7 yard touchdown over Nebraska's top cornerback. This play was also featured on Monday Night Football's "YOU GOT MOSSED!" and I loved rewatching every moment of that, of course!
The second half told a different story, as QB Morgan threw 2 interceptions to start the half, dwindling the lead to 21-16. This didn't stop the Gophers defense from shining bright. The Huskers drove deep into Gophers territory twice, but came up empty each time. First, the Gophers defense made 3 consecutive stops at the goal line to force a turnover on downs. Then, the Huskers faced another decision midway through the 4th quarter when it was 4th & 10 from the the Minnesota 34. Still trailing 21-16, Head Coach Scott Frost elected to go for it, but a heavy pass rush forced an incompletion and another turnover on downs. The key sequence of events that put the game to rest happened with about 5 minutes to play and Minnesota still leading 21-16. The Gophers decided to punt (many of the home fans boo'd and were clearly unhappy with this decision) instead of going for it on 4th & 1 at midfield. On the first play from their own 11 yard line, Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez was forced into the endzone, trying to avoid the rush, before being wrapped up by Esezi Otomewo for a SAFETY, making it a 23-16 lead for the Gophers and getting the ball back. Shortly after this, RB Bryce Williams recorded the highlight of his Gophers career with a 56 yard touchdown run with 2:12 remaining in the game and effectively sealing up the hard fought victory 30-23, to improve to 4-2 on the season.
This was another impressive win by this Gophers team as they have faced a roller coaster of a season in terms of player availability and game outcomes. The Gophers came into the season with 7 running backs. 1 RB was injured for the year in the preseason, Mo Ibrahim was injured for the season in the Ohio State game, Treyson Potts was ruled out for the season during the Purdue game, and now Cam Wiley just entered the transfer portal after the Nebraska game. Also, WR Daniel Jackson did not play due to personal reasons and OL Curtis Dunlap JR just entered the transfer portal last week. All of this turnover has only led to one poor performance (we won't go into detail about that game again, lol) and has really shown how strong this Minnesota Gopher culture has become under PJ Fleck. I don't think it is said enough, but young Head Coaches, like Fleck, are also still learning on the go and are going to make mistakes (he always takes the blame and shows a genuine love for his players) and have some poor performances just like players do. What PJ Fleck has brought to the Gopher Football program both ON and OFF the field has been immeasurable. He has completely turned around a program that was heading in the wrong direction, the team GPA is the highest it's ever been, the Gophers have reached a ranking in the standings that we haven't seen since the '60s, the amazing community work at children's hospitals and helping people with donations during the pandemic and riots of 2020, and building a much more competitive and consistent program that the State of Minnesota can finally be proud of again! Minnesota is incredibly lucky to have PJ Fleck as the head coach and I truly believe he is here to stay and is also proud to call Minnesota HOME. One of these days, he'll help secure our 8th National Championship (insert wink face).
Around the Big Ten West
Another nice call from Birdman's Blog after the Gophers beat Purdue: "For Purdue, RB King Doerue and WR David Bell each tallied over 120 yards on the day. Expect them to continue to be Purdue's two best offensive players the rest of the season. They are both explosive game-changers and I wouldn't be surprised if Purdue is able to pull off a massive upset later in the year." This weekend we saw the Purdue Boilermakers march into Iowa and pull off the MASSIVE upset over #2 Iowa Hawkeyes, 24-7. You can probably guess which players led Purdue to victory... WR David Bell had 11 catches for 240 yards and 1 TD and RB King Doerue led the backfield with 51 total yards. You love to see your favorite blogger continue to make calls like this!
The next matchup for the Gophers will be hosting Maryland next Saturday afternoon. The Gophers open as 5-point favorites, as Maryland lost their best player to a horrific leg injury earlier in the season against the Iowa Hawkeyes. I will have this preview up later in the week!