With the $ 5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy at stake, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-2) host the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-4) on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Huntington Bank Stadium.
Can Nebraska score on offense?
The Nebraska offensive is the antithesis of the Minnesota offensive. It relies on creative play calls that keep opposing defenses on their heels through wrong direction and breaking trends, and much of their success rests on the shoulders of their quarterback. Everything goes through Adrian Martinez, for better or for worse. He’s their best passer – 118 of 178 (66.3%) for 1,754 passing yards and nine touchdowns – and their best rusher – 88 rushing attempts for 450 yards and 10 touchdowns. Martinez’s Achilles heel has seen turnovers in critical situations, losing three fumbles and throwing three interceptions in the first six games of the season.
Although Martinez leads the team in emergency courts, the Huskers have a running back committee available to help them carry the load. The two hottest hands in recent times appear to be freshmen Rahmir Johnson and Jaquez Yant. Johnson is a speed back who has shown his potential as a dynamic playmaker against Michigan, rushing for 67 yards on 17 carries and recording six receptions for 105 receiving yards and a touchdown. Yant is a bigger fullback at 6’2 “and 225 lbs, but he also broke through the Northwest defense for a 64-yard touchdown.
One of the biggest problems of the Scott Frost era was the Nebraska offensive line. But the Huskers reorganized their offensive line ahead of the Northwestern game, inserting rookie Teddy Prochazka on left tackle and second Nouredin Nouili ââon left guard. The early results were encouraging to say the least, as Nebraska have given up just one sack since the change and led the way with 427 rushing yards in a loss to Northwestern. Although Prochazka suffered what appeared to be a very serious knee injury in the Huskers’ loss to Michigan.
In the air, Martinez’s favorite target is wide receiver Samori TourÃ©. Montana’s transfer leads the Huskers with 26 receptions for 520 receiving yards and three touchdowns. When Nebraska wants to expand the field, they call TourÃ©’s number, especially in the passing game. Martinez also has a massive target in 6’8 “tight end Austin Allen, who is second on the team in receptions (19) and receiving yards (222). But the Huskers love to spread it, as seven different players have at least one touchdown reception this season.
Please tell me the Gophers can score
Nebraska is strong defensively, ranking 56th nationally in rushing defense (133.9 rushing yards allowed per game), 43rd in passing defense (207.7 passing yards allowed per game) and 22nd for the defense of the scorers (17.8 points allowed per game). If you want to beat them, you have to be able to run the football. Well, unless you’re in the state of Michigan. The Huskers managed to bottle up Kenneth Walker III, the nation’s top rusher, and limit him to 61 rushing yards and an average of 3.2 yards per carry, but ended up losing to the Spartans in overtime.
But in Nebraska’s loss to Michigan last week, Wolverine running backs Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum had plenty of room to run, rushing for a combined 212 yards and an average of 6.2 yards per. race together. The Huskers operate from a 3-4 base defense, so the pressure is on linebackers to stifle the opposing rushes, and missed tackles have been a problem lately. Linebackers Nick Henrich and Luke Reimer are neck and neck in the squad in terms of total tackles, but I would say the defense captain is JoJo Domann.
In high school, Nebraska have two veterans in safety – Deontai Williams, who leads the team with three interceptions, and Marquel Dismuke – and one of the league’s top junior cornerbacks Cam Taylor-Britt. Taylor-Britt had a remarkable game against Michigan, scoring three assists and eleven tackles. The Gophers wide receivers, even at full strength, will need to be better to create a split than they have so far this season – and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. needs to get more creative with his Passing concepts – if Minnesota is going to soften the Huskers’ defensive front.
But who will score the most points on Saturday?
To be honest with you, I don’t have a lot of faith in Minnesota right now. The Gophers ‘struggles in the passing game so far this season have been well documented, and the loss of Trey Potts means Minnesota’s attack on the first, second and third pass will be a big deal for real freshman Mar’ Keise “Bucky” Irving. Both defenses are good, but I think it’s obvious that Nebraska’s offense presents more of a challenge than its counterpart on the opposite sideline. I’m sorry, but I think the broken chair goes to Lincoln. Nebraska 23, Minnesota 16.