The severely depleted Minnesota Gophers beat Nebraska in one of their best team efforts of the season, and won the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy. It was their first game without star wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who opted out the week of Thanksgiving. Thirty-three other players missed the game due to injury and/or COVID protocol. Minnesota’s last two games were scuttled due to COVID protocols and contact tracing. After an 0-2 start, they’ve won three of their last four games.
Depleted Gophers Beat Nebraska, 24-17
There was a scary moment early in the game, when running back Mohamed Ibrahim seemed to injure himself at the end of a touchdown run. He slid through the end of the snowy end zone, crashing feet-first into a barricade at the edge of the field. It looked harmless enough, but he was clearly in some discomfort after and played sparingly through the next couple of quarters. (He did play more in the fourth quarter, finishing with his school-record seventh consecutive 100-yard game, and two touchdowns). The silver lining was that his eventual replacements saw some action. Redshirt freshman Cam Wiley, in particular, made the most of it. He didn’t find the end zone, but he carried seven times for 81 yards, including a 61-yard scamper in the second quarter to set up a touchdown.
Both Sides Of The Ball
All of this, despite a shuffled offensive line missing starters. Quarterback Tanner Morgan was his solid if unspectacular self, and the offensive line did an admirable job in pass protection. Morgan didn’t find the end zone, but he also wasn’t sacked and didn’t turn the ball over. In short, he did what he had to do to win the game and didn’t try to play “hero ball”. With a runner like Ibrahim, backed up by Wiley, there’s no need to and Morgan clearly knows that.
But it wasn’t just the offense. Linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin had a career game as the depleted Gophers beat Nebraska. The junior finished the game with 18 total tackles and a forced fumble. (For comparison, Sori-Marin made 42 total tackles all last season, albeit with far less playing time). Tyler Nubin led the defensive backs with seven total tackles and a first-quarter interception. Defensive lineman Keonte Schad, out of action since the Maryland game, returned to the lineup and not a minute too soon. The front seven was reportedly one of the hardest-hit areas for the Gophers in terms of missing players.
Finally, we’d be remiss not to mention the kicking game. Senior Anders Gelecinskyj got into his first game and made a 31-yard field goal. He also converted all three PAT attempts. Consistency from a kicker is something the Gophers have been looking for all year.
In short, it was an effort and a result to be proud of as the depleted Gophers beat Nebraska. Next week they’ll face rival Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.