Empty Husks: Rock Bottom 2, Electric Boogaloo

Minnesota's Rodney Smith runs past Nebraska defensive line (photo: Francis Gardler/Journal Star)

What is there to say after the beatdown Nebraska took in Minnesota in their last game? Nebraska limped into Minnesota without quarterback Adrian Martinez and lost do-it-all star Wan’Dale Robinson early in the game. On a team already struggling to find playmakers, they were without their leader after a costly win against Northwestern the week before. Minnesota, on the other hand, was coming fresh off a crushing victory over Illinois and was obviously rising out of their early season struggles. What happened next was still surprising.

A (Not So) Strong Start

Nebraska took the ball to start the game and marched efficiently downfield on the arm and legs of backup quarterback Noah Vedral. Twelve plays in, they found themselves facing 4th and 2 on Minnesota’s 29. With the Huskers’ kicking situation, a field goal was a pretty bad proposition at that distance. They stayed aggressive and elected to try for a first down. Minnesota got the stop.

The Gophers scored almost effortlessly, running through Nebraska’s defensive front with ease. They only scored once more in the first half, but they out-gained the Huskers by over 100 yards. Every Nebraska drive after the first went fewer yards than the one before, all of them ending in punts. Early in the second quarter, breakout freshman Wan’Dale Robinson went down with an apparent ankle injury and did not return. Nebraska didn’t score until the 3rd quarter was nearly over. Final score: Minnesota 34, Nebraska 7.

Nebraska’s Wan’Dale Robinson (1) suffers an injury on this second-quarter run as he’s tackled by Minnesota’s Chris Williamson (6) and Thomas Barber (41). (photo: Francis Gardler, Journal Star)

A Lack Of Execution, Or Effort?

During the game, it seemed as though Nebraska was getting manhandled on both sides of the ball. They did nothing to stop Minnesota’s run game, giving up 322 yards on the night. Minnesota has one of the best receiving corps in the B1G, if not the country, but they didn’t need them. They gashed Nebraska for 6.6 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns.

Looking back though, the real issue seemed to be a lack of effort by Nebraska. They showed up unprepared to one of their biggest games this year. A chance to prove that they could compete with fundamentally sound teams. Instead, they looked unprepared and often uninterested as Minnesota’s stable of running backs ran past them, again and again.

Mohamed Ibrahim scores one of his three touchdowns Saturday (photo: Francis Gardler/Journal Star)

Moving On

It’s hard to say with any confidence that Nebraska will win more than 6 games this year. They have a tough Indiana team at home this week, followed by a road trip to Purdue. After a second bye, they get an away game at Maryland, sandwiched between home games against Wisconsin and Iowa. It’s hard to imagine Nebraska winning more than two of the five, and even the games against Purdue and Maryland are likely coin flips.

If Nebraska can use this first bye to regroup and get re-motivated, then they could still finish the year strong and go bowling. Their success down the stretch almost entirely depends on the health of Martinez and Robinson.

It would also be all too easy to drop a game against Indiana and then allow that loss to snowball into a loss at Purdue. If that happens, well, it’ll be a rough ride until Thanksgiving.

Quarterbacks Noah Vedral and Adrian Martinez walk off field together after game (photo: Francis Gardler/Journal Star)

This Week

Before anything else, Nebraska has to host Indiana. The Hoosiers come to town as a 2-point favorite. Quarterback Michael Penix is questionable after suffering an undisclosed injury against Maryland. If Penix plays, this is a probably Indiana’s game to lose. Without him, Nebraska has a fairly good chance at pulling off the upset. On paper, Indiana and Nebraska are in the same echelon of college football in 2019. I’ll believe Nebraska can beat teams like that when I see it.

Indiana 28, Nebraska 24

Christian is a co-host of Between The Numbers, a weekly podcast recapping the best college football news from around the country and offering smokin’ hot takes.

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