Minneapolis, MN (SportsNetwork.com) - Philip Nelson went 7-for-15 for 152 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 55 yards and two touchdowns to power the Minnesota Golden Gophers to a 34-23 victory over the 25th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers.
David Cobb ran 31 times for 138 yards for Minnesota and Mitch Leidner added a rushing touchdown. Derrick Engel had two receptions and a touchdown for the Gophers (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten).
Ameer Abdullah carried the load for the Cornhuskers (5-2, 2-1) with 19 carries for 165 yards, while Taylor Martinez completed 16-of-30 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sam Cotton and Imani Cross notched the only touchdowns for Nebraska.
Nebraska started the game with the ball and wasted no time getting into the end zone. After an Abdullah 16-yard run on 3rd-and-14, Martinez found Kenny Bell for a 42-yard completion, which took the Nebraska to the Golden Gophers 2-yard line. On the following play Cross pushed across the goal line for the touchdown.
The Gophers went three-and-out on their opening possession. Nebraska's Jordan Westerkamp returned the punt 19 yards to bring the Cornhuskers to the Gophers 47-yard line.
The Huskers managed to take the ball to Minnesota's 17-yard line until Theiren Cockran sacked Martinez causing a fumble, which resulted in an 11- yard loss, but was recovered by the Huskers offensive lineman Mike Moudy. Pat Smith kicked a 45-yard field goal on the following play.
Minnesota then drove 13 plays to answer the Huskers' field goal. On the drive the Gophers threw only one pass and rushed the rest of the way to the end zone. The score was eventually tallied by Leidner on a 1-yard run.
On the next three drives both defenses stood tall and forced punts, and Abdullah was taken to the sideline with an apparent knee injury after he was landed on awkwardly by several linemen.
The Gophers then came out and recorded three first downs in succession, until sputtering on their next three plays. Nelson overthrew Engel in the end zone on third down. Defensive coordinator and acting head coach Tracy Claeys made a gutsy call on 4th-and-10 and went for it, Nelson connected with Engel just between two Nebraska defenders at the 4-yard line to lead him into the end zone for a 33-yard score, making the score 14-10 in favor of Minnesota.
"Everyone wants to ask me questions as the head coach; but I'm not, Jerry Kill is the head coach," said Claeys. "The coaches and players have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Kill. We know he would love to be with us. Right now he can't be with us but we didn't want to disappoint him. As coaches and players we're working our hardest to make him proud."
Abdullah returned to the field after sitting out a drive and on his first touch fumbled, which was recovered by Gopher Cedric Thompson. Minnesota capitalized on the turnover on Chris Hawthorne's 26-yard field goal.
Nebraska didn't lose faith in Abdullah and targeted him six of 10 plays on the next drive, which ended with a 42-yard field goal by Smith with three seconds left in the half.
Minnesota started the second half going three-and-out and Nebraska followed with the same outcome. Although on the punt by Nebraska they were penalized 15 yards for a personal foul, which gave the Gophers the ball at the Nebraska 38- yard line.
On the first play of the drive Nelson found tight end Drew Goodger for a 21- yard completion, which was followed by a 14-yard Nelson run. After two 1-yard runs by Cobb, Nelson pushed the ball over the goal line for the touchdown bringing the score to 24-13 in favor of the Gophers.
"Everyone was excited about the game plan. You know it's a great game plan when everyone is excited about it," Nelson said. "We knew going into this week that Nebraska is the type of a defense that you can't let get comfortable so that is where all the trade, shifts and motions came into play and we were able to keep them on their heels."
Nebraska went three-and-out for its second drive in a row but their punt gave the Gophers the ball on their 13-yard line. Minnesota then drove all the way to the Huskers 27 before the defense stopped them and held the Gophers to a 45-yard Hawthorne field goal.
The Cornhuskers then put together a successful drive, highlighted by a 35-yard Martinez run down to Minnesota's 26-yard line. Abdullah ran three out of the next four plays and brought Nebraska to the Gophers 3 before Martinez found a wide open Cotton in the left side of the end zone.
On their next drive the Gophers started off with a 31-yard completion to Goodger, and two rushes by Cobb led to a first down, but the drive sputtered and led to a Minnesota punt.
On the Huskers' first possession of the fourth quarter they profited from two 22-yard Abdullah runs and a Quincy Enunwa catch for 32 yards. The drive ended with a 37-yard Smith field goal, which brought the score to 27-23 Minnesota.
"I want to congratulate Minnesota. I give credit where credit's due," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. "Like I just told our football team, they earned it, they beat us, they were the more physical team and I'm disappointed on how this football team took the field today and how we executed and how we played."
With 5:50 left in the game and a chance to drive downfield and take the lead Nebraska went three-and-out, which led to an eventual Gopher touchdown on a 1- yard run by Nelson to seal the win.
Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill was watching the game from the booth while still taking a leave of absence in effort to better control his epilepsy ... Nebraska is now 10-16 when trailing at the half under Pelini ... Goodger had three catches for 68 yards.