The Twin Cities — During the first month of the Matt Rhule era, the Nebraska offense made it apparent to anybody who would listen how they wanted to play on the field. Such a move would be retro. The Huskers were able to win games by wearing down their opponents as they ate up yardage. They would put on a physical display reminiscent of the Big Eight’s heyday by running the ball and winning the line of scrimmage.
Both Rhule and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield lowered their passing game expectations. It wasn’t supposed to carry the load offensively, but rather serve as a supplement to the ground game. That number was lower on Thursday.
The Huskers did what they needed to do on the ground. Nebraska’s attack was mostly driven by quarterback Jeff Sims, who was able to prolong plays and maintain the ball on strong, physical runs. The vulnerabilities in the O-line were exploited by running backs Gabe Ervin and Anthony Grant.
Although he threw for a score and three picks from drop back, Sims only threw for 114 yards (34 of which came on a bizarre trick play with broken coverage). Even though the air attack didn’t have much to do, it still struggled against a strong and athletic secondary from Minnesota.
Sims credited Minnesota for their success
They have a solid squad. I need to be more strategic while handling the ball.
All three of Sims’ interceptions were from dubious judgments he made or from his inability to see past opposing receivers. Late in the first half, he was pressed to throw to a blanketed Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda in the far corner of the end zone.
Minutes before Minnesota’s game-winning field goal, he failed to see safety Tyler Nubin breaking on a route, leading to the defensive back’s second interception of the game.
Alex Bullock, a former walk-on who grabbed a touchdown in his first career start, stated, “We matched their intensity.” I thought we held our own with them, but they deserved credit for being a formidable opponent. It’s just that we weren’t able to pull it off tonight.
On the rare occasion when Nebraska attempted a long ball, it was an incomplete pass intended for Tommi Hill, and the offensive line struggled to protect quarterback P.J. Sims while he waited for open receivers. Three times Sims was brought down, causing him to scramble out of the pocket.
It was nothing uncommon for Sims to make interceptions or make questionable choices occasionally. His reputation as a dynamic athlete who could use his legs but was prone to turnovers preceded him to Nebraska from Georgia Tech. In 25 games with the Yellow Jackets, he tossed 25 picks.
I found some of his performances to be quite impressive. Rhule remarked, “He made some crucial throws.” Clearly, he gained more than 100 yards rushing (not counting sack yardage). He posed a serious danger in the zone-read offense, but the ball must be protected at all costs. The last thing we need is for people to throw from behind the arc.
This is Jeff’s first step, and we’ll be there to guide him. Yes, he will return.
Nubin returned to Minnesota’s locker room after the final whistle by way of the tunnel located deep within Huntington Bank Stadium.
The All-Big Ten safety and team hero for the Gophers said to no one in particular, “That s— was fun as (expletive), bro.”
Sims sat in the visiting team’s media room a few minutes later, hood up and headphones on his head. He was one of the players whose efforts cost Nebraska the game, as he contributed greatly with his legs but not enough with his arm.