We’ve heard the term “talent gap” used in the past to explain previous Nebraska losses. This week, I’d like to introduce a new term.
Wisconsin didn’t out-talent Nebraska in this game. They just out-physicalled Nebraska, and as a result, out-executed the Huskers. To me, this said more about the Badgers than the Huskers; Wisconsin has been doing things this way for 25 years. And on the night that the Badgers honored the 1993 Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions, Wisconsin did Wisconsin things to Nebraska.
Why is this less about the Huskers? Scott Frost and strength coach Zach Duval have only been working with these players for nine months. And let’s also remember that Duval had to dial down his offseason workouts because the players weren’t ready to handle it. (Even the dialed-down version was too much for a couple of players.) You simply can’t fix years of neglect in strength and conditioning in a few months.
Did Husker fans have higher expectations for this season? Yep. But let’s also remember what the expectations were for this game this summer. Only 17% of voters in a CN poll on the preseason preview of Wisconsin thought the Huskers would win. 45% thought it was going to be 2014 ugly.
If fans were told this summer that the Badgers would win by 17, but the Huskers would gain 518 yards of offense, I think most would would have accepted it. Fans wouldn’t have been pleased, but it’s probably better than what could happen in Madison.
That’s my takeaway. We would have loved more this week, but it’s simply not meant to be. Dust yourself off, and let’s move on. This losing streak will end soon enough, because this team is getting better.
As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: The game plan for this week was for a heavy dose of Adrian Martinez, and Martinez was mostly up to the task. He actually dealt with the Badgers pass rush pretty well, being only sacked twice. I have to believe he frustrated the Badgers with his elusiveness; I’m sure they felt they should have had more sacks. And his passing was mostly good, though he did have a couple of YOLO throws that Mario Verducci will point out as “MSU-ing”. There were more than a few throws he’d like to have back, because there were plays to be made against an injury-depleted, inexperienced Wisconsin secondary. Grade: B+
I-Back: I have to admit that I’m second-guessing some of the game plan. After a fine performance by Devine Ozigbo last week, not getting a carry until the second quarter is questionable to me. He did look fine on his five carries, though. (I fully understand why Nebraska wanted to exploit Wisconsin’s injury depleted secondary; I just think they may have gone a bit overboard.)Maurice Washington looked great as the number two back. He’s a completely different back than Ozigbo; this pair can be a great “thunder and lightning” combo; in fact, I have to think that pairing the two, with Washington as the “Duck-R” in the backfield with Ozigbo could be a lethal combination. I suspect that Washington’s late arrival might be the only limiting factor. Grade: B+
Wide Receivers: J.D. Spielman is going to get all of the acclaim for his 209 yard performance, but don’t sleep on Stanley Morgan, who is making all of the tough catches out there. Martinez needs more consistent options beside those two; Jack Stoll’s touchdown grab is a prime example of what Nebraska’s passing game needs more of. Grade: A
Offensive Line: I’m less down on this than many, I suspect. The line wasn’t good, but considering the opposition, wasn’t awful either. I think there are going to be some takeaways from this game that can be used all offseason to highlight just how much more work in the weight room is going to be needed. Lines like what Wisconsin and Iowa bring aren’t built in weeks or months; they are developed over years. Grade: D
Defensive Line: Well, they got owned. Should we be dissappointed? Of course. Should we have been surprised? Of course not. We knew this was going to be tough, and it was. Grade: F
Linebacker: The search for a second inside linebacker to work along side Mohammed Barry continues. Will Honas would have a Blackshirt by now if it wasn’t for his season ending injury last week. It looks like the next candidate will be Jacob Weinmaster, who played quite a bit late. I suspect Nebraska REALLY wants Tyrin Ferguson back at outside linebacker soon. Grade: F
Secondary: It looks like Lamar Jackson took last week’s benching to heart the right way; he battled his way back onto the field after last week’s benching. But someone needs to step up and take command of that other cornerback spot opposite Dicaprio Bootle. Quietly, safety Aaron Williams continues to have a pretty good season, though. Overall, though, the secondary needs to find ways to get off the field. It’s one thing to give up a first down on third and short, but Wisconsin moved the chains five of nine times facing third and five or more. Grade: D
Special Teams: Caleb Lightbourn, who looked fine last season, now looks kind of lost out there. He may have lost his punting job to Isaac Armstrong, who showed a strong leg on two punts. But with the liberalized fair catch rules, it’s silly for Nebraska to be running kickoffs back considering the problems with blocking for a return without getting flag. Grade: D
Overall: C- Fewer dumb penalties this week, and the offense showed signs of improvement against a top-tier opponent. The Huskers are getting better, and this nine game (uuuuuuuuggggh) losing streak is going to end sooner, rather than later.
Don’t stop believin’ about tomorrow...it’ll soon be here.
How would you grade the Huskers against Wisconsin?
This poll is closed
A - Ah, ah, ah! NINE! Count von Count counts NINE Husker losses in a row! Ah, Ah, Ah!
B - Better than we feared.
C - Not good, but not horrific either.
D - Disappointed yet again.
F - Failed to win yet again. My patience is just about out.