Lincoln, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Golden Gophers strengthened their bid to represent the West division in the Big Ten title game by rallying to beat No. 21 Nebraska without their best offensive player.
Mitch Leidner scored his second rushing touchdown with 3:25 remaining in the fourth quarter to lift the Golden Gophers to a 28-24 win over the Cornhuskers.
Leidner completed 8-of-17 passes for 135 yards and added 110 yards on the ground for Minnesota (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten), which overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit to post its first victory in Lincoln since 1960.
Golden Gophers star running back David Cobb rushed for 80 yards on 15 carries, but left with a hamstring injury suffered at the end of a third-quarter touchdown run.
Minnesota can book a spot in the conference championship game with a win at Wisconsin next Saturday.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. was 12-of-19 passing for 223 yards and one touchdown for the Cornhuskers (8-3, 4-3), who were eliminated from contention in the West race with a second straight loss.
It seemed like Cobb was on his way to breaking Minnesota's single-season rushing record when he pulled up lame on a 17-yard touchdown run. He departed 34 yards of tying Laurence Maroney's mark of 1,464 set in 2005.
After Drew Brown kicked a 30-yard field goal for Nebraska, Rodrick Williams Jr. ran for a 19-yard touchdown on 4th-and-1 as Minnesota closed the gap to 24-21 with 1:47 to play in the third.
On the drive that produced the go-ahead touchdown, Leidner converted a 3rd- and-6 from his own 37 with a 38-yard pass to KJ Maye, who made the catch along the left sideline in tight coverage. Five plays later, Leidner scored from two yards out on an option keeper.
"Those were big time plays, we ran the stutter route and KJ got behind him and we always talk about you have to have receivers step up and make big plays in critical moments and KJ made a great play," said Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill.
The Cornhuskers threatened on their next possession, but De'Mornay Pierson-El had the ball stripped after making a leaping grab inside the five-yard line. The catch was going to be nullified by an illegal touching penalty.
Minnesota ran out the remaining 1:19.
"We didn't play well enough. We had too many busts. Our execution was subpar. Our tackling was horrendous. Too much leaky yardage. We beat ourselves in a lot of instances," said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. "We lost some opportunities, obviously on offense. Put the ball on the ground. Didn't take advantage of some opportunities. And all those things add up to losing against a good football team."
The Cornhuskers scored on their first drive as Kenny Bell's 73-yard reception set up Ameer Abdullah's 2-yard touchdown run. Bell was shaken up at the end of the play when his left shoulder and head hit the ground. He left the game and didn't return.
Minnesota answered with a nine-play, 71-yard drive that ended with Leidner scoring on a QB sneak.
The Cornhuskers began the second quarter in Minnesota territory and Armstrong capped an eight-play sequence by throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass to Pierson-El. The Nebraska wide receiver fumbled the ball into the end zone, but was ruled to have broken the plane before losing control.
Nebraska extended its lead with a big play from its special teams. Minnesota lined up for a field goal try after its next drive stall in the red zone and Randy Gregory blocked Ryan Santoso's kick. Nate Gerry scooped up the ball and scored on a 85-yard return.
Pierson-El lost the ball again after a reception, derailing a promising drive late in the first half.
Minnesota has won eight games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2002-03 ... The Golden Gophers snapped a seven-game losing streak at Nebraska after ending a 16-game series losing streak last year ... Abdullah rushed for 98 yards on 20 carries.