- Associated Press - Saturday, October 17, 2015

Minneapolis (AP) - Mitch Leidner did his part with a career day against the nation’s worst passing defense. Minnesota’s own defense, though, didn’t play up to standard against a reeling Nebraska team.

Leidner completed 26 of 40 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown while KJ Maye had a career-high 11 catches for 94 yards in Minnesota’s 48-25 loss on Saturday. But the Gophers’ inability to run the ball effectively, combined with a bounce-back performance by Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., negated Leidner’s strides and snapped their two-game winning streak against Nebraska.

“It’s frustrating, looking at our goals that we set early on in the season and looking where we’re at now,” Leidner said. “But it’s just part of the game. Things like this just happen and you’ve just got to be able to keep fighting back.”

Minnesota (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) had appeared to rediscover its offense headed into the game, having routed Purdue 41-13 a week earlier. Returning home against a reeling Nebraska team and its struggling quarterback seemed the perfect formula for getting things back on track.

Instead, the Huskers (3-4, 1-2) looked like the superior team all afternoon.

After grinding up Purdue on the ground last week, the Gophers rushed for only 65 yards on 26 attempts. They had 271 yards rushing against the Huskers in 2013, and 281 a year ago.

“You’ve still got to be able to run the ball,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said. “It was one of those things, we weren’t moving them.”

In the first half, Leidner looked as sharp as he’s ever been, completing 16 of 17 passes for 156 yards before the break. But the Huskers still led by 10 heading into the locker room.

Right after Minnesota’s first touchdown in the first quarter this season, a 75-yard opening drive capped by a 24-yard catch on third-and-1 by Eric Carter, Nebraska answered in three plays. Terrell Newby galloped through a gaping hole in the middle and bounced outside to reach the end zone untouched for 69 yards.

“I told the defense that, ‘Hey, they just made two real good plays on that drive. Let’s go back. We’ll do better,’” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “And then we answered with a touchdown. That was a big factor.”

After completing only 36 percent of his passes for 234 total yards in two losses to start Big Ten play, Armstrong threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns, and Newby rushed for 116 yards and two first-half scores on just 13 carries for the Cornhuskers.

Alonzo Moore, Cethan Carter and De’Mornay Pierson-El were Armstrong’s touchdown targets. Carter’s third-quarter touchdown - a 10-yard score during which pushed the ball over the pylon while using his other arm for balance while Antonio Johnson was trying to tackle him - marked the end of a 99-yard march in 10 plays by the Huskers. It was the defining stretch against an injury-affected Gophers defense that had been so good the season.

“You prepare really hard during the week to make those plays, and when you don’t it’s just frustrating,” cornerback Eric Murray said.

Leidner threw two late interceptions, one that was returned by Joshua Kalu for a 41-yard touchdown, but he threw for one score and ran for another.

“He played a heck of a ballgame today except for the two picks at the end, but he was just trying to make a play,” Kill said.

Nebraska predictably had plenty of fans on hand, with the two campuses a six-hour drive apart. Red hats, jackets and jerseys were packing the corners of the upper deck, interspersed throughout the lower bowl and spotted at all kinds of attractions around the Twin Cities this weekend.

They had most of the stadium to themselves to chant “Go Big Red!” to their heart’s content by the end, with the frustrated home crowd largely emptied out.

“You definitely don’t like to lose like that but at the same time you’ve just got to keep coming,” Leidner said.

The Gophers have a week off before hosting Michigan.

“Given our current situation, a bye week will be very helpful for us,” Murray said.

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