Gophers coach P.J. Fleck explains decision to not go for it on fourth down in Nebraska win

LINCOLN, Neb. — John Michael Schmitz gave P.J. Fleck a “death stare.”

Mo Ibrahim insisted to his head coach: “We’re going for it! I got it.”

On the headset, Fleck heard two different play calls from his offensive staff for the Gophers’ fourth-and-1 from their own 46-yard line with less than three minutes left on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

“Half the staff likes one; half the staff likes the other,” Fleck said. “They just keep going back and fourth.”

Fleck said “all signs say punt,” but was open to the input. Fleck put the punt team out on the field, followed by the offense then the punt unit again. The lack of a clear call influenced Fleck’s final decision to not go for it.

If Minnesota had converted on that fourth-and-1, it would have all but guaranteed a victory because Nebraska was out of timeouts.

Punter Mark Crawford booted it down to Nebraska’s 12. The Cornhuskers hit a 31-yard pass play to get to midfield, but the drive stalled, including safety Tyler Nubin’s pass breakup on fourth down. And the Gophers held on for a 20-13 win.

Fleck said his final decision came down to “90 yards is a lot harder to get in two minutes with no timeouts than 46 yards.”

BAGGED SACKS

Minnesota’s pass rush has been much maligned this season, but they had their best production of the season Saturday. The Gophers had four sacks against the Cornhuskers, besting the three they had against Colorado in September.

“They train us to execute our responsibility, and this week we were emphasizing that a lot in practice,” defensive end Thomas Rush said. “It showed up.”

Rush and Kyler Baugh combined for a sack for the defensive line. Linebackers Cody Lindenberg, Mariano Sori-Marin and Lucas Finnessy had a sack apiece.

Minnesota had four combined sacks across the previous five games.

BRIEFLY

Gophers defensive end Danny Striggow, who had a team high 3 1/2 sacks, left during the first quarter with an apparent upper-body injury. His hands were clasped when he went straight into the locker room for further tests and didn’t return to the game. … Mariano Sori-Marin, Brevyn Spann-Ford and Mike Brown-Stephens also dealt with injuries. … Mohamed Ibrahim joined the Gophers’ 4,000-yard rushing club. He has 4,086 and trails only Rodney Smith (4,122) and Darrell Thomson (4,654) … Fleck improved to 3-19 when trailing after the first quarter as Gophers head coach. … Fleck receives a $75,000 contract bonus for becoming bowl eligible this season. … The Gophers’ postgame meal had a fitting side dish Saturday: sweet corn.

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