MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota football team is back from its bye week, and getting ready to host Nebraska for one of its most important games of the season on Saturday.
The Gophers (3-2, 1-1) responded from a bad loss to Bowling Green on Homecoming with a 20-13 win at Purdue. It was a much-needed win to get the season back on track, but it came with a price as Trey Potts is now out for the season with an undisclosed injury. Potts had been the Gophers’ leading rusher after Mo Ibrahim went down for the season with a leg injury against Ohio State.
The Gophers used their bye week to heal up some other wounds, do some self-scouting and at least one player made life-long commitment. Quarterback Tanner Morgan used the time off to propose to his girlfriend last Saturday in her home town of Victoria, just west of the Twin Cities.
"It was just really special. She's the woman I've always dreamed of and prayed for. She's one of the greatest gifts God’s ever given me, actually the greatest gift God’s ever given me in my life," Morgan said.
Morgan said he met his future bride, Sarah Becraft, in the summer of 2019 on Instagram.
"Successful slide in the DMs," Morgan joked.
He said they went ring shopping back in July. She didn’t think anything was coming until Thanksgiving, or after the season. Morgan said he’s leaned on her to get through his father’s death from a brain tumor.
"She was the person that I always wanted to be able to talk to about what I was feeling, the hard stuff. I think seeing her heart and the way she loved my dad, too, was really cool, really inspiring. And my dad knew she was the one probably before I did," Morgan said.
CHRIS AUTMAN-BELL STILL WORKING THROUGH INJURY
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Gophers, with a few players dinged up. One of them is receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who is still working his way back from a leg injury suffered in fall camp. Autman-Bell missed the first two games of the season before making four catches for 79 yards at Colorado.
Autman-Bell made one catch for nine yards against Bowling Green before re-aggravating the injury. At Purdue, he had two catches for 40 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown. He said he feels much better heading into Nebraska.
"It was awesome. I got time off to rehab and get it back going. Take some time and get treatment on it. It was just awesome to get some time to heal it up and get it right," Autman-Bell said.
With Potts and Mo Ibrahim out for the season, the Gophers will likely turn to Autman-Bell and other receivers for big plays out of the offense.
NEBRASKA QB ADRIAN MARTINEZ ‘PLAYING REALLY GOOD FOOTBALL RIGHT NOW’
The Gophers return to Huntington Bank Stadium this weekend, and the defense will have a tall task of containing Adrian Martinez. The dual threat quarterback threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns, and ran eight times for 38 yards in the Cornhuskers’ 32-29 loss to Michigan. It was Martinez’s fourth quarter fumble that set up the Wolverines’ game-winning field goal. For the season, Martinez has more than 1,700 yards passing, averaging 250 yards per game and has nine touchdowns with three interceptions. He’s also their leading rusher at 64 yards per game, and 10 rushing touchdowns.
The Gophers have 12 sacks in their last three games. They’ll need to balance pressuring Martinez with maintaining discipline in their rush lanes. Martinez will run the second he senses pressure.
"He's playing really good football right now. Nebraska's offense is very explosive. They're putting up a lot of yards, putting up a lot of points. He’s the center of their offense," linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin said. "He's attacking the ball in the air, attacking on the ground. So we're looking forward to the opportunity to play him."
Sori-Marin is back healthy after seeing limited time at Purdue with an injury.
The Gophers are 3.5-point home underdogs against Nebraska. If they can find a way to beat the Cornhuskers, their next four games against Maryland, at Northwestern and against Illinois present a path for Minnesota to be 7-2 heading to Iowa.