MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Quarterback Demry Croft ran for 183 yards and three touchdowns, Rodney Smith added 134 yards rushing and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and Minnesota ran over Nebraska 54-21 on Saturday.
Kobe McCrary had 93 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Minnesota, which finished with season highs of 408 yards rushing and 515 yards of total offense. Croft's big day included an untouched, 73-yard touchdown run up the middle for a 20-7 lead at the start of the second quarter as he set a school record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback.
The Gophers (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten) held Nebraska to 69 yards rushing on 33 attempts.
Sophomore quarterback Tanner Lee was 13-of-18 passing for 174 yards and a touchdown for the Cornhuskers (4-6, 3-4), but Lee was held out the second half while dealing with an illness. Redshirt freshman Patrick O'Brien replaced him and was 12 of 18 for 137 yards passing.
Minnesota native and the son of Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, JD Spielman caught nine passes for 141 yards for Nebraska.
Smith set the tone for the day by taking the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, the first time the Gophers returned an opening kickoff for a score since 1998 when Tyrone Carter had an 86-yard touchdown return.
Nebraska: The Huskers have two games left -- at No. 16 Penn State and at home against No. 25 Iowa -- and need wins in both to become bowl eligible. Nebraska hasn't missed a bowl since Bill Callahan's final season as coach in 2007, when it went 5-7. The Huskers need a win to avoid their first four-win season since 1960. The ineptitude has made coach Mike Riley the target after Bill Moos replaced Shawn Eichorst as the athletic director in October.
Minnesota: Bowl eligibility is looking more likely in coach P.J. Fleck's first season. The Gophers' performance against Nebraska is the type that can give them hope going to Northwestern next week before finishing at home against No. 6 Wisconsin. There's an outside chance of Minnesota still earning a bowl bid with its five wins due to the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate in which the Gophers are tied for fourth. The APR standings are used if there aren't enough six-win teams to fill the bowl requirements.
Nebraska travels to Penn State on Nov. 18.
Minnesota: Will look for its sixth win at Northwestern next week
49, 734 –– Redshirt freshman JD Spielman had nine receptions for 141 yards in today’s game. With his totals, Spielman increased his season receiving totals to 49 receptions and 734 yards to set Nebraska freshman records in both categories. The previous records were 45 receptions for 641 yards by Nate Swift in 2005. Spielman recorded his second 100-yard receiving game of the season, joining Swift as the only freshmen in Nebraska history to post multiple 100-yard receiving games. Spielman’s 49 receptions this season leaves him just one catch shy of the single-season top 10.
1,445 –– Spielman totaled a career-high 291 all-purpose yards today, including 141 receiving yards and 150 yards on kickoff returns. He now has 1,445 all-purpose yards this season, setting a Nebraska freshman record for all-purpose yards. The previous record was 1,259 yards by Ahman Green in 1995. Spielman’s 291 all-purpose yards against Minnesota marked the fifth-highest total in school history and the second-best mark by a Husker freshman, trailing only Calvin Jones’ 298 all-purpose yards at Kansas on Nov. 9, 1991.
200 –– Senior safety Joshua Kalu had five tackles in today’s game to increase his career tackle total to 203. Kalu is the sixth defensive back in Nebraska history with 200 career tackles.
· Quarterback Tanner Lee threw for 174 yards in the first half of today’s game before sitting out the second half. Lee increased his season passing total to 2,439 yards good for seventh on the NU season passing list.
· Lee surpassed 6,000 passing yards for his career when including his two seasons at Tulane. Lee now has 6,140 career passing yards in his college career.
· Receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. caught four passes for 37 yards, giving him 24 straight games with a reception, the fifth-longest streak in school history. Morgan has 47 receptions this season, three outside the season top 10.
· Senior receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El caught three passes for 63 yards, including a 44-yard reception in the first quarter. Pierson-El moved up two spots to 11th on the NU career receptions list at 93 catches and moved up to No. 15 on the NU career receiving yardage list with 1,216 yards.
· Junior safety Antonio Reed had a career-high 15 tackles in today’s game, including eight before halftime. Reed’s previous career high was six tackles.
· Senior tight end Tyler Hoppes had four receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown. Hoppes has 24 receptions, eight catches shy of the NU tight end record of 32 catches by Mike McNeill in 2008.
· Minnesota returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, marking the first kickoff return for a touchdown against Nebraska since USC’s Adoree Jackson had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Nebraska in the 2014 Holiday Bowl.