Nebraska football: It's time Huskers started beating teams they should in B1G West
A golden opportunity awaits Nebraska this Saturday, and they need to seize it.
The Gophers of Minnesota and the Huskers have history. The programs have played 60 games dating back to 1900. Minnesota won 10 straight from 1940-49. Nebraska went on a 16-game winning streak from 1963-2012.
Since Nebraska joined the B1G in 2011, they are 5-4 against Minnesota, but the Gophers have won 4 of the past 7.
Although this season can certainly be seen as a step back for both, 1 program is developing under P.J. Fleck, who is 25-18 in 4 seasons, while the jury is still out on where Big Red is headed under Scott Frost, who is 11-19 in 3 seasons.
This matchup gives Frost an opportunity to start trending up in the B1G West, and that starts by beating teams Nebraska should beat in their own division. And Minnesota, which will be without 20 or more players due to the B1G’s 21-day sit-out rule, is a team the Huskers should, and need, to beat on Saturday.
Nebraska did well last week by getting a win on the road over Purdue, another division opponent that owned a win streak over the Huskers, albeit just 2 games. But now the Huskers need to prove they can do it again, and not fall flat on their faces like they did against Illinois. It seemed as if some players didn’t take the Illini as seriously as they should have, or prepare enough in the week leading up to the game.
Frost knows this. His players do, too.
“We kind of had to learn a lesson of how you respond to a win,” senior guard Matt Farniok told the media on Monday.
Said Dedrick Mills, Nebraska’s starting running back: “Everybody knew we shouldn’t have lost to Illinois. Everybody was upset from even having the fact that they came in here and beat us in our house and enjoy their ride back home, which is never supposed to happen. They didn’t want to feel that again.”
Nebraska can get redemption in this game, and in more ways than one. The Huskers can show how they’ve learned from the Illinois loss, and that they won’t overlook a perceived inferior opponent. They can also get payback for last year, when Minnesota owned the field in a 34-7 blowout behind a punishing rushing attack traditional Huskers fans dream their own team could pull off.
Yes, Minnesota will come to Lincoln with a losing record and, statistically, the worst defense in the conference, one which gives up an average of 34 points per game. One of the Gophers’ best players, receiver Rashod Bateman, opted out to focus on the NFL Draft.
There’s plenty about this version of Minnesota that would lead a team to look past them and chalk it up as an easy win. But the Huskers aren’t good enough to do that, and their loss to the Illini showed that. Let’s not forget that Minnesota still has a battering ram at running back in Mohamed Ibrahim and aren’t afraid to test the teeth of the defense over and over again.
As of this writing on Monday afternoon, no names were mentioned among the 20 or more who won’t play.
With solid quarterback play as of late from Adrian Martinez, Nebraska’s offense should be in position to have more success. On Monday, the coaching staff said it decided to stop spreading out the receiver reps too much. Good idea. Beyond the obvious pick of Wan’Dale Robinson — who finally had his coming-out party last week against Purdue — freshman Zavier Betts will be on the field a lot more.
Betts, a local product from Bellevue West High School in Omaha, is clearly one of the most talented wideouts the Huskers have. But the freshman didn’t get any spring practices, so it’s not shocking to hear that he’s still learning how to play the position at this level. Betts will be good; he just needs as many reps as he can get. Husker Nation should be glad he’s going to get them.
With a B1G West win already under their belt, Nebraska needs to respond the correct way this weekend against Minnesota. If the Huskers want to make progress and be considered a contender in the West, they need to win games like Saturday’s.
A golden opportunity awaits against the Golden Gophers.