Opponent Preview: Minnesota
Fresh off its second bye week of the season, Nebraska travels to Minnesota this weekend, looking to improve to 3-0 in Big Ten Conference play.
The Golden Gophers won at Northwestern last week to earn their first Big Ten win this fall, as Minnesota brings a 5-2 overall record and 1-2 conference mark into Saturday's game. Both Nebraska and Minnesota will be seeking bowl eligibility with a win on Saturday.
Much of the focus on Saturday's game revolves around the quarterbacks. Nebraska senior Taylor Martinez returned to practice this week after missing the past three games with an injury. In his absence, redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. has earned three starts and performed well, while senior Ron Kellogg III has also produced positive results in extensive action over the past three games.
For Minnesota, redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner has started three games this season - including each of the last two games - while sophomore Philip Nelson started four of the first five games. The Golden Gophers use both quarterbacks during the game, and it was Nelson who came off the bench to lead Minnesota on each of its scoring drives against Northwestern.
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini said Nebraska will prepare to face both quarterbacks, but he noted the Golden Gophers run a similar offense with both quarterbacks.
"I think it's pretty similar," Pelini said of Minnesota's two-quarterback offense. "They go with who's hot. You don't see a big change in what they are doing offensively by quarterback. Minnesota is getting better. I think they believe in what they are doing."
Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for 11 a.m., and the contest will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Minnesota snapped a two-game losing streak with a 20-17 win at Northwestern last Saturday, picking up its first Big Ten Conference victory. UM enters Saturday’s contest with a 5-2 overall record and a 1-2 mark in Big Ten play.
The Golden Gophers have used two starting quarterbacks this season. Sophomore Philip Nelson started four of the first five games, posting a 3-1 record. Redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner has started three games this season, including the last two contests, posting a 2-1 record. Last Saturday at Northwestern, Leidner earned the start but the Golden Gophers were forced to punt on their first four possessions. Nelson came on and led Minnesota on its only scoring drive of the first half, then played the majority of the second half. Minnesota scored all 20 of its points with Nelson under center.
Nelson has completed 53.9 percent of his passes this fall for 492 yards and three touchdowns while throwing four interceptions. Leidner has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 332 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while adding 344 rushing yards, good for second on the team. David Cobb leads Minnesota with 477 rushing yards this season, while Rodrick Williams has added 332 yards.
Overall, Minnesota is averaging 29.3 points per game. The Golden Gophers average 327.9 yards of total offense, including 210.1 rushing yards and 117.7 passing yards.
Defensively, the Golden Gophers are allowing 23.1 points per game. Minnesota ranks 45th nationally in total defense at 375.9 yards allowed per game. Opponents average 123.4 rushing yards per game and 252.4 passing yards per contest.
Minnesota leads the all-time series, 29-22-2, but the Huskers have won 16 straight in the series dating back to 1963. The Golden Gophers own a 20-12-2 record in Minneapolis, but Nebraska won the only meeting at TCF Bank Stadium, 41-14, in 2011. The Huskers also defeated Minnesota 38-14 in Lincoln last fall, giving Nebraska a 2-0 record against the Gophers in Big Ten Conference play.
Nebraska has scored at least 35 points in each of the last 12 meetings, while winning each of those 12 games by at least 25 points. Over the last 10 games, the Huskers have averaged 49.1 points and won by an average margin of 42.9 points. In 1983, top-ranked Nebraska scored 84 points against the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, marking the Huskers’ highest point total in the modern era. NU racked up 790 yards of total offense in that win - the third-highest total in school history - including 595 rushing yards.
Saturday’s matchup will mark the 12th consecutive meeting where Nebraska is ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll at kickoff.
Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill
Jerry Kill is in his third season at Minnesota and his 19th season as a collegiate head coach. Kill helped Minnesota to a 4-1 start this season, but he has not been on the sideline the past two games while dealing with a health issue. Kill has a history of epileptic seizures. He made a surprise trip to Northwestern in a non-coaching role last Saturday to watch his team win their first Big Ten game of the season. Kill owns a 14-18 record in his three seasons at Minnesota and a 141-91 career record.
Prior to coming to Minnesota, Kill guided Northern Illinois to a 23-16 record from 2008 to 2010 in his first FBS head coaching job. In the FCS rank, Kill coached Southern Illinois for seven seasons from 2001 to 2007, leading the Salukis to the FCS playoffs in each of his last five seasons.
Kill also made head coaching stops at Emporia State (1999-2000) and Saginaw Valley State (1994-98). He also served two stints as an assistant coach at Pittsburg State (1985-87 and 1990-93).