It wasn't a thing of beauty on Saturday night. Am I talking about the game or the jerseys? Really it's both. Nebraska had six fumbles, and thankfully only lost two. But those two turnovers put the Husker defense in a bind and led to two Wisconsin touchdowns. Most of the fumbles were not forced, so it was a self-inflicted breakdown for the most part. The pollsters were not impressed or disappointed; sportswriters bumped the Huskers up to #21 in the AP poll while the coaches left the Huskers at #20. Ohio State jumped to #12 in the AP poll; the Buckeyes are ineligible in the coaches poll.
The "Unrivaled" Techno-fit jerseys were even worse in person than I had thought. Walking to the game, I must have seen five or six different unauthentic black-and-red jerseys from various manufacturers; all superior to the pajamas that Nebraska wore. That's a matter of taste, and your taste may differ from mine. Some people, after all, like Nickelback and Britney Spears. What cannot be argued is that the big "N" on the front of the jersey made it difficult to tell who was who on the field, especially from seats in the end zone. From my perspective high up in the south end zone, I had no idea who was on the field for the Huskers in the first and fourth quarters, other than what I might see on a replay or get announced on the public address system. (And sometimes, I think even they got it wrong at times as well.)
So that's going to affect this report card; much of the night, I had no knowledge as to who was who out on the field. At various times, all I saw were 11 guys with an N or a W on their jersey. If I tracked on something wrong, go ahead and correct me.
QB: David Gilbert's trash talking seemed to get to Martinez. He fumbled the opening snap, and many of his throws were off-target. Credit the receivers for making the catch, but there weren't opportunities for yards after the catch. Martinez should not have been surprised by the all-out blitz that resulted in his third quarter fumble; that was pretty well telegraphed. Martinez has to get rid of that ball sooner one way or another. Conversely, his running was on the spot. Nifty 38 yard touchdown run, and having the awareness to scoop up the loose football and run for a first down to keep the game winning field goal drive alive. Grade: C+
RB: Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead couldn't be stopped by Wisconsin's front seven. But they have to earn demerits for fumbling. Grade: B-
WR: Martinez didn't make their job easy against Wisconsin, but the receivers came through, making the big catch time and time again. Anybody else wishing that Martinez could have hit Jamal Turner in stride in the third quarter? Grade: A-
OL: The offensive line gets quite a lot of criticism; many times, it's deserved. But against Wisconsin, the Huskers held their own with a decent performance. Grade: B+
DL: We've been concerned about the play of the defensive line all season, but against Wisconsin, the d-line was an asset, not a liability. Baker Steinkuhler fought through and made plays in the backfield. Eric Martin tried to be disruptive all game long, and Chase Rome is fighting to earn his playing time back. Grade: A-
LB: While Nebraska's linebackers were no match for UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, they were more than ready to deal with Montee Ball. And as the game went on, they got stronger and stronger. Not having to worry about Joel Stave scrambling probably has something to do with that, but all three linebackers were playmakers against Wisconsin. Will Compton had three tackles for loss and led the Huskers with 10 tackles total. Sean Fisher came up with a key stop of Ball on third and one to force a Badger punt in the third quarter. And Alonzo Whaley made the game-clinching play when you had to figure that Ball would somehow get that last half-yard. Grade: A
Secondary: In the first half, nobody seemed to want to cover Jared Abbrederis...enter Ciante Evans who volunteered to shut down the Badgers' most productive offensive playmaker. We saw things to be optimistic about on run coverage (hello, Josh Mitchell playing like a kamikazee)...but pass defense was somewhat dreadful. Daimion Stafford's pass interference penalty not only kept a Badger drive alive and kept Nebraska's offense off the field before halftime. Was Nebraska selling out on run support? To some extent yes...but it's going to take everybody on this defense playing well to get this team to Indianapolis and beyond. Grade: C
Overall: B+ If Nebraska isn't dropping the ball on the ground, the Huskers probably coast to a nice home win. Instead, everybody sweats out a first half letdown and leaves exhilarated by a nice comeback.
Elsewhere in College Football
Baylor Defense: 0 Did they even board the plane?
West Virginia Defense: F Remember when "not much better than Baylor" was an insult? Saturday, it was.
Iowa: B+ Nice bounceback to finally bring Floyd of Rosecale back to the empty trophy case in Iowa City. But I still have to shake my head at this reaction to winning a bronze pig.
Purue: D+ Sorry, but when you allow Marshall to score 41 points, you lose the right to have a "D" in your name. 534 yards??? Imagine what the rest of the Big Ten's east division will do to the Boilermakers defense.