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ThotDoc's Brain Droppings on the Minnesota Game

ThotDoc

Tom Osborne
5 Year Member
Gophers Gallop, Blackshirts Blasted, Vedral Vexed and Wandale Wounded, as Fleck Flummoxes Frost in an Evening Embarrassment

On a cold, windy and snowy night in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Golden Gophers absolutely embarrassed the Nebraska Cornhuskers 34-7 in a game that wasn’t even that close. The Nebraska effort was a waste of the jet fuel used to fly the team to Minnesota. Nebraska’s 27-point defeat was the worst whipping of any of the Gophers opponents this year as Fresno State scored 35 to lose by 3, Georgia Southern scored 32 to lose by a field goal and Purdue scored 31 to lose by 7. Even South Dakota State played Minnesota to a one touchdown loss and lowly Illinois scored 17 in losing by 23 points. I shouldn’t be too critical of the Illini as Nebraska barely skated past them in a 4-point win.

I was in Lincoln a year ago as Nebraska notched its first win of the season against Minnesota in a 53-28 thrashing. Since then the Gophers have gone 10-2 and the Huskers 7-5. Minnesota is 6-0 for first time since 2003 and are on an 8-game win streak. Even though the Huskers out-recruit Minnesota every year, it’s not hard to see which team is improving and which team is mediocre. Granted, Nebraska has had injuries to contend with, as Adrian Martinez did not even dress for the game, but that doesn’t explain the mental fragility displayed by a team you would have thought was coached by Mike Riley. One team wanted it and the other team didn’t seem to care. I believe this was the worst loss in Scott Frost’s tenure and was more disturbing than last year’s blowout at Michigan or this year’s domination by Ohio State, because those teams were at least strong opponents. The lack of effort tonight was visibly disturbing. To say that Nebraska seemed passive would be an insult to Mahatma Ghandi.

You know it’s bad when you are trying to find something positive about the game and the only thing you can come up with is that Nebraska extended its consecutive game streak without being shutout to 302 (Arizona State, 19-0, in September 1996). Both lines were dominated so completely that even the television announcers were making light of the Huskers. The team made so many mental mistakes and stupid penalties that even Frost referred to it as “dumb.” The only thing that the Huskers didn’t add to the mix was a turnover, even though JD Spielman put the ball on the turf four times and Mo Washington had a turnover overturned.

Even worse than the score, the biggest loss of the night was the ankle or foot injury to Wandale Robinson. By far our most dynamic and dangerous offensive weapon, and sometimes it seems our only weapon, means that an extended absence by Robinson will make it difficult to get the two wins necessary to become bowl eligible. The shot he took right after he made his first catch of the night to gain 8 yards and a first down made most fans shudder. I don’t know how he managed to hold on to the ball. His two receptions brings him to 27 catches this season, the most ever by a Husker true freshman. He passed Stanley Morgan Jr. who had 25 receptions in 2015.

Despite being down just two scores at half when it could have been so much worse, and despite Frost’s efforts to light a fire at halftime and have the team hit live in warming up for the second half, the third quarter slump continues. Nebraska has now been outscored 75-41 in the third quarter this year, including 37-7 in the last three games. What happens in the locker room at half? Is there Valium in the Gatorade?

Noah Vedral made his first career start at quarterback for Nebraska and completed 14-of-23 passes for 135 yards. He also led the team in rushing as he ran for 49 yards despite being sacked three times. He looked reasonably decisive and ran hard given the limited protection and blocking. Thankfully, the snaps from center were rarely an issue tonight. It was a good thing as Vedral needed that split second more to run for his life. I can’t figure out the strategy of having Mo Washington (6 carries for 20 yards) run up the middle while Dedrick Mills (9 carries for 28 yards) is tasked with running around the edge. The most productive Husker runner was Brody Belt who picked up 29 yards on 4 carries.

JD Spielman (3 catches for 59 yards) was the leading receiver for the Huskers and his 51-yard catch and run was the Huskers best play of the night, although I’m not sure what he was doing at the end of it when it seemed he wasn’t clear which way to run. Spielman increased his career receptions total to 145 and moved into fifth place on the Nebraska career receptions list passing Johnny Rodgers (143) in tonight’s game. Jack Stoll (4 catches for 18 yards) picked up a couple of tough first downs and Kade Warner (3 catches for 38 yards) had a career long 26-yard reception for his first catch of the year. Jaron Woodyard made his first career start and made a 5-yard grab on Nebraska’s first possession before going AWOL for the remainder of the contest.

In the first half, the Gophers ran the ball 23 times and gained 220 yards (9.6 yards per rush). Minnesota came into the game ranked 71st nationally in rushing offense. They gained 329 yards on the ground for the game and 450 total yards. They had so little respect for our defense that they ran successfully on 3rd and 9 three times. Rodney Smith averaged 7.7 yards a carry in piling up 139 yards and Shannon Brooks averaged 7.6 in gaining 99-yards. It was just too easy. Our defensive lineman were pushed around and seemed to give up on some plays while the linebackers and secondary misread gaps, overran plays and tried to tackle with their arms or shoulders. I would like to know the number of missed tackles and yards after contact Minnesota gained as the pile continued to move down the field turning a 1-yard stop into a 7-yard gain.

Mohamed Barry (11 tackles) led the team in stops while Collin Miller and Marquel Dismuke each added 10 tackles a piece. After having no tackles for loss in the first half, the defense did manage five after intermission with the three above getting one each and Garrett Nelson (3 tackles) adding two more. As lifeless, uninspired and ineffective the defense was tonight, the one bright spot was the energy displayed by Nelson. If we had ten more on the field with the same desire to hit somebody, we would be far more competitive. And I’m not talking about hitting someone after the play, which Khalil Davis seems prone to do. Lamar Jackson (3 tackles and 2 pass breakups) increased his team-leading total to 11 pass breakups. Believe it or not, Jackson entered the game second nationally in passes defended.

The special teams were no more disappointing tonight than the offense and defense. The wet ball made punt and kickoff returns look like a juggling act. We were fortunate to get the ball back or have the fumble overturned. Spielman’s botching a fair catch at the 5-yard line and recovering inside the two was especially precarious. Apparently, punt receivers are instructed to fair catch at the five now instead of nothing inside of the 10-yard line. The wind made punting a challenge as Isaac Armstrong averaged 38.2 yards on six punts with a 52-yarder with the wind and a 26-yarder against it. Will Przystup had one touchback on two kickoffs with the other being returned for 32 yards.

The Bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Between injuries and fragile egos, this team is currently a mess. Frost certainly has the opportunity make good on the university’s investment if he can turn this team into a strong-minded competitor. Tonight was about toughness in the trenches and the Huskers failed miserably. Last year, the team leaders challenged the team to dig deeper and turn the season around and they played with considerably more grit down the stretch. Intestinal fortitude is again in short supply and needs to be discovered yet again. Indiana may well be 5-2 when they come to Lincoln in two weeks and would love to become bowl-eligible against the Huskers. I will be in attendance as I make my annual pilgrimage to the Husker Cathedral. Let the renewal begin. Go Big Red!!
 
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Cyberbach

Founding Father
15 Year Member
So, you and Iggy gunna make the tailgate.... can't wait. Appreciate the writeup. GBR
 
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MyBraska

Varsity
5 Year Member
I agree it seems there is a fragility to the team at the moment. Sad to think that. But there is no one I would rather have to turn the ship than SF. This is a very different landscape than that experienced by the 70s and the 90s in the Big 8 or Scott's team at UCF. We need to hang in there. It will get better.
 

HuskerNash

Recruit
2 Year Member
I agree it seems there is a fragility to the team at the moment. Sad to think that. But there is no one I would rather have to turn the ship than SF. This is a very different landscape than that experienced by the 70s and the 90s in the Big 8 or Scott's team at UCF. We need to hang in there. It will get better.
I agree but there has been fragility to the Huskers since 2002. Historic beatdowns every year, head scratching domination every year, folding at the first sign of adversity every year, mental lapses, the list goes on and on and it seems like we are stuck in a loop. Players and coaches change, but the results stay largely the same. In hindsight we had it under Bo but at least we could count on 9 wins. Maybe I took him for granted but I never thought we would do much more than 9-4 under his direction. Hell, than looks pretty darn good now.
 

MyBraska

Varsity
5 Year Member
I agree things looked better with Bo at times. But even though 9 wins sounds pretty good right now, HuskerNation has set much higher sights. Bo's defenses were better, and SFs UCF teams seemed to mostly outscore their opponents, but hopefully that will change. But at least when I listen to Scott in the pressers, I don't cringe. The turnaround will come, but I'm afraid there are still a lot of growing pains still in front of us.
 

RedWheel

Travel Squad
5 Year Member
Last year, the team leaders challenged the team to dig deeper and turn the season around and they played with considerably more grit down the stretch.
Good summary. I would love to see team leaders challenge the team over the next two weeks. Unfortunately, I have a hard time seeing who would step up and challenge the team. Our team captains are not performing well and the guys with the most fire seem to be younger guys. In the glory days, the senior and captain leadership led the way and kept the team in line. A lot of that was leading by example. It is hard to find that type of leader on this team. Perhaps I am overlooking them.
 

ThotDoc

Tom Osborne
5 Year Member
I can tell you what is NOT happening: Adjustments in scheme and motivational speeches.
I have great respect for you going to the game last night and representing how Husker fans follow their team anywhere and everywhere in any kind of weather. But, your investment surely paid no dividends last night and I pray you don't get pneumonia.
 

sdhusker

All Legend
15 Year Member
SDSU was about 3 bonehead plays by their QB (although it was his first start) from beating Minny. They played them man for man........
Wandale's injury is disturbing because he is past 4 games.
NU has no I-back on the team or they don't use one............. I was concerned with all the QB runs and Wandale's size both were going to get hurt running into the teeth of a the defense..........and of course it happened.
 

Mentally Red

Recruit
2 Year Member
I have great respect for you going to the game last night and representing how Husker fans follow their team anywhere and everywhere in any kind of weather. But, your investment surely paid no dividends last night and I pray you don't get pneumonia.
So far so good, lol.

There were two ladies in front of me that looked to be about 70. The two of them came together with no one else. They put on their red ponchos, wiped off their seats and asked us to help open their little heat packs. They struggled to see over the drunk young Minn fans in front who kept standing and dancing. Man, forcing them to watch that game was nearly a case of elder abuse! I’m so sick of it.
 
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ThotDoc

Tom Osborne
5 Year Member
I got a chance to peak at some of the grades for the Minnesota game. It was interesting to note that the two highest graded defensive players were reserves Garrett Nelson and Deontre Thomas. The highest graded on offense were Noah Vedral and Brody Belt. The highest graded lineman was another reserve, Broc Bando.

Perhaps revisiting the depth chart does have considerable merit. Let's play the guys who want to play with more intensity and let's get a fire lit under those who are coasting along as a starter.
 
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