Golden Gophers Bowl Bid Chances Take Hit With Saturday’s Loss


Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers started fast at home against Nebraska on Saturday, with a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner to wide receiver Eric Carter. But the Cornhuskers quickly answered, with running back Terrell Newby’s 69-yard touchdown run on their third offensive play, and Nebraska scored 31 of the next 38 points in the game on their way to a decisive 48-25 victory and their first conference win of the season.

One bright spot for Minnesota was quarterback Mitch Leidner, who set career-highs for completions (26) and passing yards (301) against the worst pass defense in the FBS. But he also threw two late interceptions, including a 41-yard pick-six by Cornhuskers’ cornerback Joshua Kalu that was the final nail in the Golden Gophers’ coffin.

An injury-depleted Golden Gophers’ defense was simply overmatched throughout Saturday’s game, as they allowed 203 rushing yards and 5.2 yards per carry and Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong had three touchdown passes with a QBR of 94.7.

A week after rushing for 326 yards against Purdue, Minnesota had just 65 yards on 26 carries against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers entered the game with a run defense that was in the top-10 in the country, but the Gophers’ failure to get anything going on the ground led to an unbalanced offense and the burden of moving the ball being put on Leidner and the passing game. That is not a winning formula for Minnesota, as clearly evidenced by the result we saw on Saturday.

A 4-3 heading into their bye week, the Golden Gophers’ chances to go to a bowl have taken a big hit ahead of the most difficult part of the schedule. Another home game is coming against Michigan on Halloween night, followed by road trips to Ohio State (Nov. 7) and Iowa (Nov. 14). Home games against Illinois (Nov. 21) and Wisconsin (Nov. 28) will finish the regular season, but right now it’s hard to see Minnesota winning the two games they would need to secure a bowl bid.

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