Color Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck impressed after Nebraska put up 659 yards of total offense and 53 points on the Gophers.
“They played really, really well,” Fleck said. “I think that was the best offensive performance they played all year. They didn’t give us anything.”
Not that he expected anything different.
“I said at the beginning of the week this team (Nebraska) should be 5-1, 4-2,” Fleck said. “They’ve lost on some real strange oddity-type plays. They’re very dangerous on offense, which everybody got a chance to see. Talk about No. 2, talk about the two wideouts, talk about the running back. We didn’t stop them tonight at all. We didn’t come close to stopping them. We didn’t tackle well. We didn’t set an edge.”
No. 2, of course, is Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez, who ran the ball 15 times for 125 yards and a touchdown on top of completing 25 of 29 passes for 276 yards and three TDs.
“I think he’s one of the better players in the country already,” Fleck said. “There’s a reason why he was ranked so high, there’s a reason a reason why he was a big-time quarterback coming out and everybody wanted him and there’s a reason why he flipped here. He knew he could come in and play, start and create his legacy and what he’s going to leave at Nebraska football. He’s a running back that’s an incredible quarterback. He’s so fast, so quick, he’s bigger than you think and he can hurt you.”
But it was more than just Martinez’s individual effort that carried Nebraska. The Husker offense was perfectly designed to create the big plays of 59, 53, 67 yards that either scored or led to touchdowns.
“Schematically, they stretch you out,” Fleck said. “That’s why they have 550 yards of offense per game, They put a lot of strain on a lot of different areas. So the one thing you have to do is tackle. If you can tackle and tackle in space, you can usually limit them. They get you in so many scenarios where you’ve got to make the tackle, and if that guy misses the tackle, it's a 50-yard play. That’s what they do really well. Schematically, we were in the right positions. We just don’t make the play.”
And, he said, Nebraska knew that the Gophers had lost many of their best upperclassmen and were playing five freshmen on defense.
“These guys are really good coaches, you think those guys don’t know that?” he said. “You think Scott Frost didn’t know that? Did you see how their runs were designed to funnel to certain people? That’s how you do it as a coach. I got outcoached.”
Nebraska ran up a 28-0 lead in the first half, which was ultimately too much for Minnesota to overcome. But Fleck said the game could have turned out differently had a 37-yard first-quarter touchdown pass that would have knotted the score at 7-7 stayed on the board.
“We had a holding call on the first touchdown that we had,” he said. “That got called back. It’s a completely different game if that’s not a holding penalty. You get down 28-0 and right now, with seven freshmen starters on offense, we’re not designed to come back from that type of deficit without going outside our comfort zone.”
Minnesota got a score with 52 seconds left in the half when Zack Annexstad hit Demetrius Douglas with a 13-yard pass. But it lost the quarterback for the rest of the game.
He was replaced by redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan, who completed 11 of 16 passes for 214 yards, ran for 35 yards and led the Gophers down the field to score on their first two possessions of the second half.