MADISON- Coming off of a bye week, it took the sixteenth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers some time to get going. But once they did, the offense got rolling as Wisconsin took care of business over Nebraska, 41-24.
On a rare occasion, Wisconsin won the toss and elected to receive, rather than defer to the second half. With the ball, Alex Hornibrook and Jonathan Taylor led the Badgers on a 15-play drive that ate up over half of the first quarter clock, but Wisconsin could only get three points off of the drive.
Throughout the rest of the first quarter and early into the second, both teams traded punts and then field goals, creating the epitome of a Big Ten football score in October, 6-3.
Then, the Badgers’ offense woke up with the defense, and Wisconsin scored its first touchdown of the game, behind a strong goal-line effort from Taylor, who picked up his sixth score of the year.
Nebraska was driving, and then elected to go for it on fourth and long. Wisconsin’s “bend-but-don’t-break” defense won the battle again, thanks to heavy QB pressure from Andrew Van Ginkel and TJ Edwards, and gave the ball back to Wisconsin’s offense.
Wisconsin made the most of the opportunity, driving 63 yards in under two minutes, capping off the drive with a 14-yard beauty from Hornibrook to Jake Ferguson for the score to put Wisconsin up 20-6.
The Badgers outgained the Huskers 235-156 in the first two quarters, and also benefitted from Nebraska penalties, which cost the Huskers 60 yards.
If the first half didn’t have much entertainment, then the third quarter alone certainly made up for it, with four combined touchdowns in under 11 minutes.
Nebraska opened the half with the ball, and scored quickly on a 75-yard bomb from Adrian Martinez to JD Spielman, who easily beat Scott Nelson on the route, bringing the Huskers within 10, 20-10.
Wisconsin answered with a long drive of their own, which Taylor again capped off, this time with a long, 21-yard run to put the Badgers up 27-10. Building off the momentum, Wisconsin’s defense forced and recovered a fumble, and quickly reaped the benefits.
Senior running back Taiwan Deal, who has unfortunately had his time at Madison marred by injuries and adversity, stiff-armed his way into the end zone for a long touchdown of his one, his third on the season, to make it 34-10.
But just when it felt like the Huskers were down and out, they responded with a Martinez led drive. The young signal-caller made plays on the ground and through the air, en route to a second passing touchdown on the drive. Through three quarters, Martinez had nearly 300 yards, and the Badgers led, 34-17.
Jonathan Taylor added to his building legacy with an incredible 88-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Martinez shined as well, putting up over 400 total yards and three touchdowns.
Wisconsin’s defense struggled at times, allowing over 500 yards, but also showed some positives with the pass rush including two sacks, seven quarterback hurries and several hits.
Coach Paul Chryst was asked about the pass rush after the game, and gave a pretty short, but honest answer. “I thought there were times when we had the pass rush, and times that we didn’t.”
Safety Scott Nelson was ejected for targeting, Deron Harrell went out with a head injury, and the defense really struggled for the Badgers, especially on the back end. Because of some injuries and poor play, true freshman Rachad Wildgoose got a chance to get some valuable playing time in the game.
Chryst shared his thoughts on Wildgoose playing after the game. “We kind of wanted to get him going, and he’d been practicing well…those are valuable reps he got tonight, and he learned some things, both good and bad.”
It was not all pretty, but the Badgers continued their dominance over the Cornhuskers. With the win, Wisconsin improves to 4-1 (2-0), and will face Michigan at the Big House next week.