LINCOLN — Junior I-back Ameer Abdullah took a second-quarter handoff and sprinted around the edge, thinking that he had one man to beat.
But right as Abdullah squared up so he could juke his way around the defender, a hustling Minnesota linebacker wrapped him up from behind and poked away the football.
The Gophers recovered the fumble, and Abdullah was left wondering why he had momentarily forgotten his fundamentals in a tight game.
The Nebraska coaches had talked about it the previous two weeks. The Huskers' talent would create some opportunities for explosive plays, but there would be a smaller margin for error.
They ran 60 plays in the 34-23 loss at Minnesota on Saturday, their fewest offensive snaps since they were blown out at Michigan in 2011. And that fumble by Abdullah is one he wants back.
“You never want to turn the ball over in a game like this,” he said afterward. “I was trying to do everything I could to get us back on the winning side. (There were) multiple things that put us behind the eight-ball during the game. We just can't do that.”
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Abdullah wasn't alone. Whether it was a dropped pass or an errant throw, a bad decision or a missed block, a departure from technique or a lapse in concentration — the Husker players thought they were the ones to blame after the offense sputtered up and down the field all afternoon.
The errors were especially costly on a day when Minnesota was controlling the clock and dictating the game flow.
“We played terribly,” senior receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “Whenever you play terribly, anybody can beat you.”
Nebraska coaches said most of Saturday's issues were triggered by a lack of efficiency on first down.
Sure, there were some big plays against the Gophers — eight first down snaps went for a total of 169 yards.
But the other 19 first-down plays resulted in 37 yards. In other words: NU needed an average of 8 yards on those second downs.
The Huskers totaled 32 yards on their 19 second-down snaps against Minnesota.
“We were bad on first downs,” offensive line coach John Garrison said. “It put ourselves in bad situations.”
This week the Huskers will try to rally around the idea that their goals are still intact.
Four of their final five games are against teams in the Legends Division. They get division leader Michigan State at home in three weeks.
That difficult stretch should provide the Huskers with enough motivation to bounce back, junior guard Jake Cotton said.
“It's a humbling experience. We got our tail kicked. No way around that,” he said. “So we've got to learn from it. We've got to get back to work and start working on Northwestern.”
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Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini after the game:
Video: Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez after the game:
Video: Postgame analysis with Sam McKewon: