Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
LINCOLN, Neb. -- They honored Tom Osborne during Saturday's Cornhusker game. Then they played a game with the Gophers that must have looked awfully familiar to the Hall of Fame coach.
Minnesota didn't move within 38 yards of the end zone until it trailed by 38 points, while Nebraska rolled up more than 400 yards of offense, leading to a throwback final score of 38-14.
Talk about a historic relic: Osborne, who led the Cornhuskers onto the field before the game as part of ceremonies to mark his impending retirement as Nebraska's athletic director, coached against Minnesota six times during his career, and managed a 328-27 total score.
Bo Pelini is the coach now, and he's got the Cornhuskers within one win of a Legends Division championship after quarterback Taylor Martinez led a nearly flawless offensive performance. The junior quarterback completed 21 of 29 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns, and led the Huskers to scored on four of their first six possessions.
The Gophers, meanwhile, were never competitive, not that it's a huge surprise. The Gophers have now lost 16 straight games to Nebraska, and have been outscored 277-28 in their last seven visits to Memorial Stadium.
Minnesota went three-and-out on its first two possessions, and trailed 10-0 before it registered a first down. The Gophers punted away all six first-half possessions, and punted four more times in the second half before finally ruining the Huskers' shutout with a fourth-quarter touchdown. MarQueis Gray scored his first rushing touchdown since September by lining up at tailback, taking a direct snap, and plowing five yards into the end zone.
When the Huskers' second-team offense fumbled deep in their own territory in the final minutes, the Gophers pounced on it. Gray immediately turned it into a face-saving touchdown, running the ball in from 6 yards out.
But the game was long out of reach by then. The 16th-ranked Huskers, now 9-2 on the season and needing only to win at Iowa on Friday to claim a berth against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, rolled down the field with ease in the first half. Martinez threw a 36-yard scoring strike to Kenny Bell, and set up the other two Husker scores with a pair of 29-yard completions to move the ball inside the Gophers' 5. On both occasions, fullback Imani Cross did the honors of carrying the ball across the goal line, one from 3 yards out and the other from the 1.
The defeat could have been worse, too: Nebraska ran an effective two-minute drill to close the first half, moving 64 yards in the final 90 seconds to reach Minnesota's 1, but Cross was stuffed at the goal line as the clock ran out.
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson had little luck against a Nebraska defense that leads the nation in completion percentage. The 19-year-old freshman completed just 8 of 23 passes for 59 yards, and he was picked off twice, his first interceptions since his debut in Wisconsin last month. The second of those interceptions, on a pass that slipped through receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts' hands, was returned 45 yards by cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
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