MINNEAPOLIS — Philip Nelson rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another, guiding Minnesota to a 34-23 upset Saturday of 25th-ranked Nebraska, the first win by the Gophers since 1960 against the Cornhuskers.
Nelson made all of his seven completions count, totaling 152 yards, and carried the ball eight times for 55 yards. He spun across the goal line from the 1 with 48 seconds left to seal the victory for the Gophers (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten), who became bowl-game eligible and stopped a 16-game losing streak to the Huskers.
Taylor Martinez returned from a toe injury that kept him out of the last three games for the Huskers (5-2, 2-1), but he had only 16 yards rushing on eight attempts and 139 yards on 16-for-30 passing, plus one touchdown and one interception.
David Cobb gained 138 yards on 31 rushes for the Gophers, who outgained the Huskers 271-189 on the ground.
Ameer Abdullah had 165 yards on 19 carries for Nebraska.
Nelson relieved Mitch Leidner on the fourth series, continuing the quarterback rotation for Minnesota, and delivered one of the best performances of his two seasons here. He helped the Gophers improve to 12-0 when leading at halftime since coach Jerry Kill took over in 2011.
Kill watched from above in the box with his assistants, still on leave from his regular responsibilities while he’s managing his epilepsy. This was the third straight game he wasn’t in charge, with defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys taking over on the sideline. Video of Kill addressing the players in the locker room a few minutes before the game was shown live on the giant scoreboard behind the west end zone.
The Gophers credited Kill’s surprise appearance and impromptu halftime pep talk last week for spurring them to a victory at Northwestern, and they played with plenty of fire in this one, sensing the opening for their first win over one of the conference’s powerhouse programs sine Kill was hired.
They even sidestepped an ominous start, when Martinez hit Kenny Bell in stride for a 42-yard completion and Imani Cross finished the six-play drive with a short touchdown run. The Gophers went three-and-out, and the Huskers followed with a 45-yard field goal by Smith to make it 10-0.
But then the game took a forceful turn toward the home team. Leidner scored on a sneak to cap a commanding 13-play march. Nelson came in for the next possession and, on fourth-and-10 from the 33, flicked a perfect pass over the top of the defense to an outstretched Derrick Engel. He tumbled into the end zone for a 14-10 advantage, the first lead by the Gophers over the Huskers in this series since 1969.
The Gophers had gone 11 straight matchups with the Huskers, including each of the last two years as Big Ten games, without holding a lead, let alone getting a win.
Iowa 17, Northwest 10, OT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — C.J. Fiedorowicz caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Jake Rudock in overtime to give Iowa a win over Northwestern.
The Hawkeyes (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) nearly blew another game after leading at halftime. Northwestern (4-4, 0-4) dropped its fourth straight game.
Rudock completed 19-of-27 passes for 169 yards — none bigger than the third-down pass to Fiedorowicz in overtime. Rudock rolled to his right and lofted a pass to his big tight end in the left corner of the end zone.
Northwestern’s Kain Colter was sacked on the final play of the game to seal the win for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa snapped a two-game losing skid. The Hawkeyes led at halftime in each of their three losses.
Colter returned for the Wildcats after missing last week’s game against Minnesota with an ankle injury. Penalties and Iowa’s stingy defense ruined his return.
The Hawkeyes recorded a season-high six sacks. Iowa recovered two fumbles and totaled 12 tackles in the backfield.
Michigan State 42, Illinois 3
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Connor Cook threw for three touchdowns and Michigan State’s defense locked down Illinois.
Cook finished 15-of-16 for 208 yards, setting a Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) record for passing efficiency just a week after he was grilled for failing to move the ball against Purdue.
Tailback Jeremy Langford had 104 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns for the Spartans.
The Michigan State defense came into the game ranked first in the nation in total defense at 228 yards a game, and looked even better Saturday, holding Illinois to just 128. That included 25 yards on the ground.
Illinois had been scoring 35.3 points a game.
Almost half of Illinois’ offense came on the game’s opening drive, a 12-play, 53-yarder that ended with a field goal and a 3-0 lead that pumped a little optimism into a homecoming day crowd.
If all you saw was the final score, you might not believe Michigan State didn’t take over at that moment. But the Spartans let Illinois hang around, taking their time before finally grinding them down.
The backbreaker came slowly, agonizingly, over a little under nine minutes of the second quarter.
What looked like it was about to be an Illinois lead turned into a big 11-point edge for the Spartans. And, no surprise, their defense triggered it.
Michigan State stopped the Illini twice from its own 1-yard line midway through the quarter, stuffing running back Josh Ferguson and then, on fourth down with the homecoming crowd at its loudest, tight end Jon Davis just short of the goal line.