Date/Time: Oct. 16, 2021 / 11 a.m. CT
Site: Minneapolis, Minn.
Stadium: Huntington Bank Stadium
Series Overall: Minnesota Leads 34-25-2
Streak: Minnesota Won 2
Series in Minnesota: Minnesota Leads 23-13-2
Streak: Minnesota Won 2
Last Meeting: Minnesota won 24-17 in Lincoln (12/12/20)
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Minnesota and Nebraska meet for the 62nd time on Saturday. The Golden Gophers own a 34-25-2 edge in the all-time series and have won the last two matchups, doubling up the Cornhuskers in the process, 58-24. The Golden Gophers are 23-13-2 all-time in the series in Minneapolis and have won the last two meetings at Huntington Bank Stadium by a combined score of 88-28. A win Saturday would mark the team’s third straight win over Nebraska, which would be its longest streak against the Huskers since 1951-54
2. The Golden Gophers have one of the strongest rush defenses in the country, ranking fifth nationally by allowing just 77.0 rushing yards per game this year. In fact, Minnesota has given up just 80 yards in the last three games combined (-19 at Colorado, 22 vs. Bowling Green, 77 at Purdue). The -19 rushing yards allowed at Colorado on Sept. 18 are the fewest by any FBS team this year with the next fewest coming when Colorado State held South Dakota State to -9 on Sept. 3. The next closest involving two Power 5 teams came Sept. 4 when Georgia limited Clemson to two yards rushing. Minnesota is fourth nationally in fewest opponent rush yards (385), fifth in opponent rush attempts (136) and 13th in opponent yards per rush (2.83) and opponent rushing touchdowns (4).
3. Minnesota punter Mark Crawford was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after a standout performance in the Gophers’ 20-13 win at Purdue on Oct. 2. Crawford, who shared the honor with Jordan Stout of Penn State, continually flipped the field in a rain-soaked game against the Boilermakers, as he averaged 51.3 yards on six punts. He recorded a career-long, 60-yard punt twice, which was Minnesota’s longest punt since Ryan Santoso had a 61-yarder against Illinois on Oct. 21, 2017. Crawford is the first Gopher to be named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week since holder Casey O’Brien was recognized on Oct. 21, 2019, and he’s the first Minnesota punter to receive the honor since 2013 when Peter Mortell was recognized on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11.
4. Minnesota’s game at Purdue on Oct. 2 was the 50th game as head coach for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota. Of the 10 coaches in program history to have coached at least 50 games with the Gophers, only Henry L Williams (42-3-5) and Bernie Bierman (40-6-4) have a better record at 50 games than Fleck’s 29-21 mark. Fleck is 10th already in school history in games coached, and tied for sixth in wins. He needs one more victory to become the sixth coach in Minnesota annals to reach 30 wins. Fleck’s .580 win percentage is third best among the 11 Minnesota coaches with at least 45 games under their helm behind only Williams (.786, 1900-21) and Bierman (.716, 1932-41, ’45-50). In his ninth season as a college head coach, Fleck is 59-43 overall.
5. Minnesota did not have a sack through its first two games, but the Gophers have since tallied four sacks in each of the last three games. Boye Mafe and Thomas Rush recorded 2.0 sacks a piece at Colorado on Sept. 18. Mafe added 2.0 more against Bowling Green on Sept. 25, while Trill Carter and Rush each had a solo sack. At Purdue, Mafe and Jaqwondis Burns had 1.0 sack a piece, with Rush, Coney Durr, Micah Dew-Treadway and Nyles Pinckney each picking up half a sack. The 12 sacks in a three-game span are the most for Minnesota since recording 14 against Purdue (6), Nebraska (1) and Northwestern (7) from Nov. 5-19, 2016. The Gophers have not had a streak of three straight games with at least four sacks since Oct. 4-25, 2008, when they did so versus Indiana (4), Illinois (5) and Purdue (5).
Gopher quarterback Cole Kramer of Eden Prairie spoke with MNN sports director Mike Grimm about his evolving role as the “wildcat” QB:
(info and photos courtesy of Gopher Sports)