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Report Card: Huskers 21, Wisconsin Scored Again

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Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

You could say that Nebraska is a few seconds away from being undefeated (or at least 4-1).

You could say that Nebraska is 11 points shy of being undefeated.

Which is technically correct, but then there is this:

Nebraska is still the worst pass defense in the nation, and it's not even close.

The Huskers are also 106th in total defense.

Mike Riley has lost 14 of his last 16 conference games.

Stop and reflect on those three facts, and it shouldn't be a surprise that Nebraska is 2-4 this season.

Should we be disappointed? Absolutely.  Is this season simply bad luck or a fluke? Not anymore, friends.

Not anymore. This is your new era of Nebraska football.

And with that, it's off to this week's report card; as always, your comments are welcome.

QB: When I updated my Wisconsin preview on Wednesday, I was tilting towards a Nebraska win. But then Friday, I saw the forecast for 25 mph winds, and changed my mind. Against the wind in the first and fourth quarters, Tommy Armstrong was 2 for 11 passing. Clearly, handling the wind is something Tommy Armstrong needs to work with Danny Langsdorf on. Another thing is play calling: Armstrong was 2 for 9 passing on first down against Wisconsin. Nebraska handed off to the I-backs only 10 times on first down. That's never going to work, and it's putting extra pressure on Armstrong unnecessarily.  Grade: D

I-Backs: I'd really like somebody to explain Nebraska's I-back rotation to me because it makes no sense. This week, Nebraska went with fullback Andy Janovich as the single back on the opening series - three and out. Terrell Newby started the game fine, and we even saw a little bit of Devine Ozigbo in second quarter. Ozigbo looked really good last week, so I expected we'd see more of him this week, but he disappeared after halftime. Instead, Imani  Cross (who didn't even play against Illinois) got the call in the late stages of the game. Running up the middle in a double-tights formation that brought the entire Wisconsin defense up to the line of scrimmage. The only thing that bit of playcalling did was burn all of Wisconsin's timeouts. Granted, Riley got burned last week for getting too cutesy late, but going ultra conservative was an overreaction the other way.

And if you are going to burn Jordan Stevenson's redshirt, shouldn't you at least get him a couple of carries in the game?  Grade: D

Fullback: Last week, I thought that Andy Janovich was used too much, and by starting him as the sole running back on the opening series, Nebraska risked doing the same thing this week. Fortunately, that calmed down, and the fullback trap in the fourth quarter was the perfect call. Three carries for Janovich is just right by me.  The only downgrade for me is his false start penalty on special teams: Grade: B+

Wide Receivers: Brandon Reilly had a really, really rough day; he was getting mugged by the Wisconsin secondary with no help from the referees. But some of the receivers struggles were simply a result of poor playcalling: a relentless obsession with throwing the deep ball (in the wind) has developed the last couple of weeks, and that's not helping anybody. Grade: C-

Offensive Line: The good news is that the offensive line only had one penalty on the day, but the bad news is that freshman Nick Gates sprained his ankle. Pass protection was pretty good for the most part; no sacks allowed. Would you like more production out of the rushing game? Yes...but Wisconsin's defense is pretty stout and play calling had a lot more to do with it.  Grade: C

Defensive Line: Vincent Valentine bounced back from injury and played pretty well in limited time; good job ignoring the name-calling and innuendo being tossed his way over the last few days. But overall, the defensive line needed to get more pressure on an injury depleted Wisconsin offensive line. Grade: D

Linebackers: Trent Bray was the least experienced of Mike Riley's hires - but is looking like his best. Considering the injuries to Michael Rose-Ivey and Josh Banderas, you almost feel like the linebackers might be the strongest part of this defense at this point. Marcus Newby did a great job defending Wisconsin's tight ends (four pass breakups) despite battling cramps throughout the second half..  Grade: B-

Secondary: Byerson Cockrell seems to be Nebraska's most consistent safety at this point, for what it's worth. Josh Kalu also seems to be growing a bit into his role, but still gets burned too often in this let-the-receiver-go-unchallenged scheme. But let's be honest here: Joel Stave threw for 322 yards against this defense.  Repeat that: Wisconsin threw for 322 yards.  Make all of the Melvin Gordon jokes you want, but Stave's playing days will be over at the end of this season. Absolutely no excuse to allow Wisconsin to drive the field three times in the fourth quarter, en route to a career day.  Grade: F

Overall: D- Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. Doesn't matter. Didn't. You know what they say about the definition of insanity. Well, expect insanity to continue the rest of the season. Keep a stiff upper lip, everybody.

Elsewhere in College Football

Michigan: A+ Sometimes when you make the right hire, teams respond immediately and improve.

Kansas: 0  Baylor's starters took their pads off at halftime. Did you know that Baylor quarterback Seth Russell, who leads the nation in passing efficency, originally committed to Turner Gill to play at Kansas?  Oops.

Iowa: B At least the Hawkeyes figured out how to stop an Illinois upset bid in the closing minutes of the game.

Minnesota: F first half, A+ second half. After Purdue opened the game with an early touchdown, the Gophers went on to score 41 straight points on the road. Good news is that Mitch Leidner only threw for 59 yards; bad news for next week is that Leidner has thrown for over 180 yards in four games this season.