Despite the fact that they absolutely killed the opposition 41-14 on Saturday, there are still a lot of important takeaways to be had from the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ victory over the Minnesota Gophers.
Among the biggest questions marks heading into Week 7 was how the Huskers offense would look after seemingly finally reaching its full potential in that historic comeback versus the Ohio State Badgers two weeks ago. Well, if Saturday’s outing was any indication – the good times are here to stay. Quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead essentially scored or, set up scores, at will against the Gophers defense – which was admittedly awful.
By the end of the day, Martinez racked up 164 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-22 throwing, and Burkhead had 117 yards and a touchdown on 24 rushes. Martinez, by the way, also had 59 yards via the rush attack on a total of only 9 carries.
The offensive line, which had quietly improved since the first game of the year versus the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs and all the way through the Ohio State game came through with another solid performance. They essentially cleared the way for Martinez and Burkhead all game long and, when it was all said and done, were a big part of the reason that the Huskers racked up 346 rushing yards for the day.
Aside from Burkhead not being able to surpass the five yard per carry threshold for the game, and a few errant long bombs by Martinez that didn’t connect – there is very little to pick at if you’re looking to critique how the pair fared on Saturday.
Defensively, the Nebraska secondary -- featuring last hope cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste -- didn’t really get to flex its muscles against the horrendous Minnesota offense. Similarly, the effect of being without Jared Crick wasn’t really felt because of how smoothly the game seemed to flow on both ends against the now 1-6 Gophers.
Of course, none of the good things that happened on Saturday stopped head coach Bo Pelini from repeatedly tearing into his players. Whether it was because of what he perceived as laziness setting in or an unnecessary penalty or whatever else – he always found just cause to go after someone on the sidelines. That’s what makes Bo, Bo after all. And again, it doesn’t change the fact that Nebraskans love him, even if some fans don’t get it.
All in all, the best thing about the Huskers’ win versus the Gophers has to be the obvious confidence boost. After that Wisconsin Badgers defeat and the two awful quarters in that Ohio State game, it seemed like Nebraska’s season was coming crashing down.
Beginning from the Lavonte David’s third-quarter takeaway in the Ohio State game, leading through the week off and into Saturday's victory over Minnesota, though, it finally began feeling as though the Huskers got their mojo back.
The individual offensive and defensive lessons learned from this weekend aren’t as valid because, as was the case back in the early season when the Huskers were racking up victories against Chattanooga or the Fresno State Bulldogs, the competition is substandard. Confidence and momentum isn't based on difficulty of wins, though, and that confidence and momentum will be key as the Huskers head into their more difficult games of the year versus the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines.