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Report Card: Wisconsin Badgers 37, Huskers 21

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Nebraska nearly matched Wisconsin offensively, but fell far short defensively.

Wisconsin v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Too much Jonathan Taylor.

Too little tackling. And too little yardage gained on fourth down conversions.

It wasn’t a “should’ve won” game, but it probably was a “could’ve” won game for the Huskers. But the bottom line is that Nebraska didn’t win the game. Again.

Some people wonder why in the world Nebraska gave Scott Frost a two-year extension prior to this game, in light of Nebraska’s sixth loss of the season. To me it’s simple: with Florida State and Arkansas racing to hit the panic button on their 2017 hires, Nebraska simply doubled-down on Scott Frost. And thus iced any ludicrous “hot seat” speculation that might be bubbling up from the darkest recesses of the internet now that “two years is enough” is becoming the new defacto standard for coaches.

The message is clear to me: Nebraska is All-N with Scott Frost. Frost hasn’t fixed Nebraska yet, but we’re seeing signs of progress on offense. The defense is another matter entirely, but in this game down three starters, perhaps a bit understandable.

For what it’s worth, Scott Frost after the game wasn’t accepting excuses. What that means we won’t know for a while. That won’t stop the speculation; in fact, this speculation will fill the void that the “Scott Frost hotseat” discussion would otherwise occupy.

It’s frustration, I get that. And while I’m not the least bit pleased with Nebraska’s inability to slow Wisconsin’s ground game, I also remember that Michigan and Iowa couldn’t either.

Maybe I’m getting worn down by all of this losing over the last five years, but Wisconsin did what they do to most teams this season. Frankly, it wasn’t as bad as I feared it could be. We’ve certainly seen Wisconsin embarrass Nebraska multiple times over the years; this wasn’t quite that.

With that, on with the report card; as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.

QB: Adrian Martinez bounced back with a good, albeit not great game. He took a couple of sacks that he shouldn’t have, and had two passes tipped at the line. But most of the game, he was aggressive running the ball, which gave Wisconsin’s defense fits. Take that 45 yard run at the start of the fourth quarter, for example. Grade: B+

I-Back: With Wan’Dale Robinson out, Nebraska had no choice but to feature Dedrick Mills in the running game, and Mills provided a spark to Nebraska’s offense that really has been missing for the last month. I’ve said it in multiple report cards now, and I’ll repeat it. Mills needs to be Nebraska’s primary I-back moving forward this season; when Robinson returns to action, use him at receiver or as a change-of-pace to back up Mills. Grade: A

Receivers: Frankly, I thought this was one of the best games overall for the receiver corps. I still wonder if this game turns if Martinez’s deep throw to a wide open Kanawai Noa doesn’t get tipped by the Wisconsin line. Granted, the Huskers went on to score a few plays later, but if the Huskers score on that play, the Badgers have to pay more attention to the receivers - and that creates more room for Mills and Martinez to do their own Jonathan Taylor impressions. Grade: A-

Offensive Line: The high snaps from Cam Jurgens were back early, and Matt Farniok missed a couple of key blocks early in the game, but overall the line blocked pretty well against a stout Wisconsin defense. Grade: B+

Defensive Line: With Darrion Daniels and Carlos Davis out due to injury, we saw a lot of new names and numbers out there. Frankly, I thought the defensive line didn’t do that poorly, as I saw Khalil Davis and Damion Daniels make a few plays, and some redshirting players such as Keen Green, Fyn Anderson and Ty Robinson got some valuable experience. Grade: C-

Linebackers: Twas not a great day for the linebackers, who struggled to wrap up Taylor in the first or second level all afternoon. Collin Miller didn’t even bother to try and recover Taylor’s fumble. Grade: F

Secondary: The absence of Cam Taylor-Britt was really felt in a physical game like this one. The secondary was ill-prepared to defend the jet sweep yet again, and when JoJo Domann missed the tackle on AJ Taylor, nobody else was home to prevent Taylor from running another 40 yards for a touchdown. And yes, Taylor drug several of these guys for extra yardage. Grade: F

Special Teams: What a mess. Moving forward, Nebraska should just automatically do the Santino Panico on kickoffs and call for a fair catch. Just take the ball at the 25 yard line and be done with it. As for kicking, while Barrett Pickering’s hip might be fine, he’s clearly still rusty. I’m not sure how many kickers you can afford to keep with an 85 scholarship limit, but Nebraska might have to make room for another next season. Grade: F

Overall: D+ In the preview, I discussed the symbiotic relationship between Wisconsin’s offense and defense. There’s an inverse relationship at Nebraska, where the offense feels the pressure to score touchdowns because field goals are iffy at best and the defense can’t hold up. If Nebraska hits three or four field goals against Wisconsin, this game looks a lot different.

Poll

Grade the Huskers performance against Wisconsin

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A - Loved the offense! Went to go get snacks when Wisconsin had the ball, though.
    (5 votes)
  • 13%
    B - But for a few plays, it would have been a great game.
    (81 votes)
  • 26%
    C - Great offense, poor defense.
    (163 votes)
  • 37%
    D - Don’t think this defense is going to make it in the Big Ten.
    (229 votes)
  • 22%
    F - Failed to beat Wisconsin. Again.
    (138 votes)
616 votes total Vote Now

Elsewhere in College Football

Michigan State: 0 Sparty, NOOOOOO! Our associates at The Only Colors are throwing in the towel on Mark Dantonio.

Alabama: C It’s almost understandable that the team went into a funk after Tua Tagovailoa’s gruesome injury, but teams as talented as ‘Bama can’t fall apart either. As for why Tua was still in the game, nobody - and I mean NOBODY - lifts their quarterback in the first half of a game.

Iowa Fans: 0 Booing a clearly injured player is pretty low. The idea that Tanner Morgan, last week’s Big Ten offensive player of the week, faked an injury to stop the clock so that a true freshman could take over is pretty ridiculous.