The Gophers were without their top returning linebacker for Thursday night's season-opening 13-10 victory over Nebraska. Cody Lindenberg, a fourth-year sophomore, was one of nine players listed as out on the Big Ten-issued availability report, released two hours before game time.
Lindenberg is the Gophers' leading returning tackler after finishing second on the team with 71 stops last year and has taken on a leadership role that Mariano Sori-Marin filled in 2022.
With Lindenberg out, junior Maverick Baranowski and sophomore Devon Williams started in the Gophers base defense.
The Gophers defense was tested early by Huskers quarterback Jeff Sims. With Nebraska backed up to its 1-yard line, Sims gained 4 yards on a keeper and 6 on a scramble. He then gained 26 yards to the 32 after beating the Gophers to the right edge. Minnesota's defense stuffed a couple of runs and forced Nebraska to punt, with Williams making two tackles.
Also on the availability report was Gophers wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who was listed as questionable. Autman-Bell suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game of the 2022 season but returned to the Gophers for his seventh season. He was limited during training camp.
The other Gophers listed as out were defensive lineman Darnell Jefferies, Lucas Finnessy and Hayden Schwartz, defensive back Craig McDonald, linebacker Derik LeCaptain, offensive lineman Jackson Ruschmeyer, and tight ends Sam Peters and Jameson Geers. Kicker David Kemp was listed as questionable.
Listed as out for Nebraska were starting linebacker Nick Henrich and reserve linebacker Jimari Butler.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck talked last year about some of his seniors eventually becoming assistant coaches, and Sori-Marin appears to be on his way.
Sori-Marin was on the Gophers sideline Thursday as a volunteer assistant coach. A three-year starter at Minnesota, Sori-Marin went undrafted but signed as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers, who waived him in June.
The Gophers wore a helmet sticker with "Bud'' and "13'' in honor of former Gophers great and Vikings coach Bud Grant, who died on March 11. Grant played for the Gophers from 1947-50.
• Former Minneapolis North standout and Northern Iowa transfer Omar Brown came up with a big interception on Athan Kaliakmanis to shut down a deep Gophers' drive late in the third quarter Thursday. Brown, who was an Associated Press FCS All-America defensive back in 2019, jumped in front of a sideline route by Daniel Jackson to give the Cornhuskers the ball at their own 24-yard line.
• Gophers cornerback Justin Walley spent time in the injury tent during the second half but re-entered the game in the fourth quarter. The sideline radio report said both Walley and defensive back Darius Green were dealing with leg cramping.
• The Gophers entered Thursday with a 4-2 record in season openers under Fleck.
• Minnesota entered Thursday 97-36-6 in season openers. The Gophers were 101-31-7 in home openers.
• The Gophers opened the season at home against a Big Ten opponent for the third time in four seasons. They lost to Michigan in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and to Ohio State a year later. In season openers against Big Ten foes, the Gophers had lost four straight, also falling to Penn State in 1993 and '94.
• Kaliakmanis became the fourth quarterback under Fleck to start a season opener. The others: Conor Rhoda (2017), Zack Annexstad (2018) and Tanner Morgan (2019-22).
• Ken Dallafior, an offensive tackle who played for the Gophers from 1978-81, gave the speech at Thursday's captains' breakfast. Dallafior played eight seasons in the NFL for San Diego and Detroit.
Staff writer Marcus Fuller contributed to his report.