Minneapolis, Minn. - Nebraska's 16-game winning streak against Minnesota came to an end with a 34-23 loss to the Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.
The Huskers, who had not lost to Minnesota since 1960, slipped to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten. Minnesota became bowl eligible for the second straight year by improving to 6-2 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez returned to the field for the first time since the UCLA game in mid-September and led Nebraska to scores on its first two drives. Martinez, who had been sidelined for three games and two bye weeks by a turf toe injury, staked the Huskers to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
But Minnesota slowed down the Husker offense for the next two quarters, surrendering just a 42-yard Pat Smith field goal with three seconds left in the first half. During the same stretch, the Golden Gopher offense produced 27 points to take a 27-13 lead late in the third quarter.
With their backs against the wall, Martinez and the Huskers responded with an eight-play, 72-yard drive capped by Martinez's three-yard touchdown pass to Sam Cotton with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
Minnesota took a 27-20 lead and the ball to the fourth quarter, but the Huskers had regained some momentum. The Husker defense opened the fourth quarter with a stop, and Nebraska threatened to tie the score. Martinez moved the Huskers 66 yards in nine plays before stalling, and Smith booted his third field goal of the day - this time a 37-yarder - to trim Minnesota's margin to 27-23 with 9:26 left.
The Nebraska defense got another stop on the next drive, and the Huskers got the ball back with just under six minutes left at their own 9. NU was unable to move the ball and a shanked punt gave the Gophers possession inside the Husker 35 with 4:32 left.
Minnesota capitalized on the miscue with 48 seconds left, as Phillip Nelson side-stepped around the left side of the line on 3rd-and-Goal into the end zone to give the Gophers the 34-23 final margin. It was Nelson's second one-yard touchdown run of the day.
Minnesota outgained Nebraska 430-328 in total offense on the day, including 271-189 on the ground.
Ameer Abdullah led the Husker ground game with 165 yards on 19 carries for his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season. He pushed his season rushing total to 981 yards. Martinez was the only other Husker to rush for more than five yards, managing 16 yards on nine carries, including a 35-yard run on Nebraska's third-quarter scoring drive. But Martinez, who competed 16-of-30 passes for 139 yards, was also sacked four times on the afternoon. He also threw one interception in the closing seconds of the game.
Quincy Enunwa (46 yards) and Kenny Bell (45 yards) each contributed three receptions on the day, while Jordan Westerkamp (7 yards) and Abdullah (6 yards) also pulled down three catches but combined for just 13 yards on those six catches.
Nelson led the Golden Gophers by completing 7-of-15 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown - a 33-yard connection with Derrick Engel on 4th-and-10 in the second quarter to give Minnesota the lead. Nelson added 55 rushing yards on eight carries and two more scores to produce 207 yards of total offense.
David Cobb led the hard-hitting Minnesota ground game with 138 yards on 31 carries, while Drew Goodger led the Gopher air attack with 68 yards on three receptions.
Linebacker David Santos led the Husker defense with a career-high 13 tackles, while fellow linebacker Zaire Anderson contributed 11 tackles. Nebraska was unable to force any turnovers by the Golden Gophers on the day, and notched just one sack for one yard lost against the mobile Minnesota quarterbacks.
Nebraska returns to Memorial Stadium to take on Northwestern next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. with live television coverage on BTN.