Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

Nebraska vs. Minnesota, 11/11/17

Nebraska tight end Tyler Hoppes (88) tries to slip away from Minnesota defensive back Ken Handy-Holly during the first half Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

KAYLA WOLF, JOURNAL STAR

Nebraska football writer Parker Gabriel offers his extra points from Nebraska's 54-21 loss to Minnesota on Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Turning point: The Huskers’ failed fourth-down conversion attempt from the Minnesota 7-yard line in the first quarter. NU trailed 14-7 at the time and had marched 68 yards. Instead of Nebraska punching it in and tying the game, UM took the ball back and scored five plays later.

From the time that play began to the merciful final whistle, the Gophers outscored the Huskers 40-14.

It was over when: The first time sophomore quarterback Demry Croft kept the ball on a zone-read play. The quarterback decimated NU’s defense in the option game to the tune of 183 rushing yards and three touchdowns. When the Gophers’ offensive staff saw how poorly the Huskers handled that action, they must have known they were in for a monster afternoon.

Quotable: “Well, you guys saw the game. It started bad and went from there.” — Head coach Mike Riley’s first words at his postgame news conference.

Game ball: Croft. The guy came into the game completing 34 percent of his passes over Minnesota’s past three games. He had been sacked nine times in that span and averaged fewer than 85 yards passing per game.

Not only did he rip up the Huskers on the ground, but he looked comfortable throwing the ball, too. He would have completed his first five if not for a pair of drops. He was patient, didn’t force the ball and completed 9-of-15 for 105 yards. That’s obviously not lighting the world on fire, but his overall line — 288 total yards and three scores without a turnover — will bring a big smile to the face of first-year head coach P.J. Fleck.

Notable performance: Husker safety Antonio Reed. The guy is playing with a cast on his wrist and a brace on his knee. He’s clearly not at 100 percent, as evidenced by the fact that he rotated with redshirt freshman Marquel Dismuke even as Dismuke struggled mightily in run support.

Reed still finished with a team-best 15 tackles. He’s the kind of player with the kind of mentality that you can build around.

Deep connection: Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf had a nice design early on. After a play-fake and bootleg resulted in a wide-open throw from Tanner Lee to Jack Stoll, Langsdorf came back with a similar play design. Instead of booting fully to the right, though, Lee stepped up in the pocket and found senior De’Mornay Pierson-El all alone coming back across the action. He hauled in a short slant route and turned it into a 44-yard gain. That drive stalled on fourth down, however.

Numbers for the road

102: Cumulative margin Nebraska has been outscored by over its past five games.

8.4: Yards per play from Minnesota, which entered averaging 4.8.

4,410: Days since the last time Minnesota rushed for 400 yards. That was Oct. 15, 2005, against Wisconsin.

2.8: Yards per carry for the Huskers over their past five games after managing just 69 on 33 tries Saturday.

9: Sacks forced in 10 games by the Huskers this season.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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