Things were a lot different playing football at Lincoln, Neb., when the Gophers were coached by the likes of Bernie Bierman and Murray Warmath. At one point the Gophers had a 8-3 record against some good Nebraska teams. However, that is not the story now, because they have lost their past seven games in Lincoln and haven’t won there since 1960.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill lost his first game at Nebraska by a score of 38-14 in 2012, during the Cornhuskers’ Senior Day. If the Gophers are to score a big upset Saturday and beat Nebraska, they will have to duplicate their performance in a 51-14 victory against Iowa on Nov. 8.
If they win, the Gophers will control their own destiny when it comes to winning the Big Ten West. Beat Nebraska this week and Wisconsin next week, and the Gophers would go to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game.
The Gophers hadn’t beaten Nebraska at any location under Kill until last season, when they surprised everyone by beating the Cornhuskers 34-23 at TCF Bank Stadium. Nebraska was favored by 10 going into the game.
The Gophers already have won at Michigan, something the team hadn’t done since 2005, so they should have a good idea of how to win in a tough environment. And even though Nebraska is an 10½-point favorite, anything could happen if the Gophers play a nearly error-free game as they did against Iowa.
The Gophers will have to eliminate the turnovers they had last week in their 31-24 loss to Ohio State if they are going to have any shot. Nebraska will be looking to reclaim some of their prestige after getting destroyed by Wisconsin 59-24 last week.
At his news conference Tuesday, Kill said he knows the Cornhuskers will be a determined team Saturday.
“You don’t want to face [Nebraska coach] Bo [Pellini] after that, I can tell you that,” Kill said. “I know what kind of competitor he is and how intense he is, so when you play Nebraska, you want them to come off a win, not a loss. … I mean, I just know Bo. I know him, I have a great deal of respect for him, and I think their program goes through a game like that. We certainly did earlier in the year when things just don’t go right and they snowball.
“I mean, he’s probably got ’em in meetings right now, so they’ll be ready to play.”
Kill described what it’s like playing in Lincoln.
“There is a lot of tradition when you go into that stadium, like when you go to Ann Arbor and you play there and you walk in at Lincoln,” he said. “Those are places that, you know, they’re historical and unique and not an easy place to play. But nobody in the Big Ten is, but we got to win on the road. That’s our job to do, and we got to make sure we prepare our kids to do that.”
Nebraska allowed 581 yards rushing last week to the Badgers, but Cornhuskers defensive coordinator John Papuchis told the Omaha Daily News that it wasn’t a complete failure.
“Believe it or not, there were points that we played well up front,” he said. “One of the ways that you try to teach these kids is say, ‘OK, here’s one time we did it perfectly.’ What’s the difference between this one and that one? And why didn’t we [do this] the other time?”
Still, Papuchis added that he knows the Gophers are just as focused on the run as the Badgers.
“They’re going to be a team that tries to pound you and run downhill,” he said.
Saunders liked effort
Coach Flip Saunders spoke Wednesday night about the resiliency of the Wolves, who defeated the Knicks 115-99 despite missing starters Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Thaddeus Young.
“I told our guys that I was extremely proud of them,” he said. “Just in the perspective of coming off a long road trip, it’s always tough to come back and play. Then we had some guys dropping like flies that hadn’t been around, this afternoon we had two guys [Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer] that were getting IVs, so we really weren’t sure who was going to be ready to go tonight.
“So I told them, you’ve just got to go out there and compete and play hard. I thought we had some great performances from a lot of guys, and the main thing was we just went out there and played hard. It was good to see our front line was all guys with two years or less and they went out there and competed.”
• Chris Bosio, who was the Cubs pitching coach the past three years and has some ties with new Twins manager Paul Molitor, could be the 2015 Twins pitching coach, but only if new Cubs manager Joe Maddon can get his former Tampa Bay bosses to release longtime Tampa Bay pitching coach Jim Hickey, who has been with been with Maddon since 2006 and who Maddon wants to bring to the Cubs. If the Cubs don’t make Bosio available, the Twins could hire either Rays minor league pitching coach Neil Allen or former Twins reliever Carl Willis, who has been pitching coach for the Mariners for the past five seasons. … Only hitting coach Tom Brunansky has been brought back from Ron Gardenhire’s coaching staff so far, but there still is a chance that former Twins and Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach could stay with Molitor.
• CBSsports.com is reporting that even if the Gophers football team loses its final two games to Nebraska and Wisconsin, they could be invited to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. … Carter Coughlin, the outstanding junior linebacker for Eden Prairie, is the grandson of Tom Moe, a former great Gophers end and all-around athlete who later became Gophers athletic director. … Former Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was traded by the Seahawks to the Jets in October, is off to a good start with his team, catching 17 passes for 174 yards but no touchdowns.
• Kevin Love was supposed to thrive playing alongside four-time MVP LeBron James in Cleveland, but so far the former Timberwolves star has struggled. He is averaging only 16.7 points and 10.4 rebounds through 10 games, and the Cavs are 5-5. That’s the lowest point total average for Love since his second season in Minnesota in 2009-2010, and his lowest rebound total since his rookie year.
• San Diego State gave Steve Fisher a three-year extension Wednesday. In 2011, he signed a four-year extension that included a clause that said assistant Brian Dutcher would become head coach when Fisher stepped down. Fisher is 69. Dutcher is the son of former Gophers coach Jim Dutcher.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org