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Report Card: Wisconsin Badgers 35, Huskers 28

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The Blackshirts couldn’t contain Braelin Allen, and the Huskers’ offense came up a little short. A brutally awful B1G non-call sealed Nebraska’s fate in this one.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Nebraska at Wisconsin
Textbook pass interference. No flag. So B1G.
Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nebraska’s Groundhog Day football season continues. And by that, I’m referring to Bill Murray’s classic movie where no matter what happens that day, it all ends up with the same way with the day on infinite repeat.

Yep... a seventh one-possession loss. Funny to everyone else... not so much to us.

Yeah, I get why some want to blow it all up, like Murray’s Phil Connors attempts at suicide...but as Phil eventually realized, that’s not really a solution. Eventually Connors escaped that repetitive hell, and Nebraska will as well.

That 2000 Colorado team? Oh, we all remember too painfully what happened in 2001. (62-24) It’s no consolation to any of us now, but we will persevere folks.

So it’s onto the report card. Some of you operate under a pass/fail system, and that’s your right. I’m not, and so I’m going to grade each position with a traditional A to F rating. Your feedback, though, is welcome as always in the comments.

QB: I’ll completely disagree with our site manager Jon Johnston about Martinez. He had only one bad play (the second interception) as far as I was concerned. He’s still Nebraska’s best offensive weapon and perhaps the toughest player on the team. He plays through injury...much of that the result of the lack of protection up front. But once again, he came up one play short. Grade: B-

I-Back: Nebraska was down to their fourth string running back in Markese Stepp...who didn’t even touch the ball in the second half. Brody Belt returned to the backfield and actually ran OK. Marvin Scott ended up seeing most of the snaps down the stretch, and I saw a bit of a spark there. On one hand, the yards weren’t there, but considering the lack of carries and the opponent (#1 rush defense in the Big Ten), it wasn’t a bad performance either. Grade: C+

Receivers: Samori Toure was the early hero, while Austin Allen was the big contributor. The Huskers threw for 351 yards against a defense that was only giving up 155 yards per game through the air. That inexplicable decision to not flag Faion Hicks for pass interference after tackling Zavier Betts at the end of the game is one of those decisions that the Big Ten office in Chicago will have to answer for. Hidden play: After muffing a fourth quarter kickoff, Alante Brown caught a screen pass and picked up eight yards to help recover from a holding call. Finally, going back to Martinez’s first interception: note how Oliver Martin misplayed the passm, giving Collin Wilder a free shot at the ball. Grade: B

Offensive Line: A mixed performance, to be sure. The offense did put up 452 yards on Wisconsin, the most the Badgers have given up since 2019, when Nebraska put up 493. So let’s be honest, Scott Frost’s offense appears to be a bit of kryponite for Wisconsin’s otherwise stout defense. And you don’t put up those types of yards without some help up front. But that being said, the offensive line committed four of Nebraska’s five penalties. (The fifth was on Scott Frost for basically telling the referees WTF with that non-call on the assault of Zavier Betts to end the game.) And let’s be specific here: all four penalties were on NU’s tackles: Turner Corcoran (two holding calls) and Bryce Benhart (false start and holding on that final drive). Want a specific point that’s probably the difference between an 7-4 Nebraska and 3-8 Nebraska? It’s offensive tackle. See this information from Pro Football Focus.

Again, DON’T BLAME ADRIAN MARTINEZ for Nebraska’s struggles this season. Adrian and the defense is the difference between the Nebraska having seven one-score losses and 2007/2017 disasters. Grade: C

Defensive Line: The converse of Frost’s offense being kryponite for Wisconsin’s defense is that Wisconsin’s running backs have been kryptonite for Nebraska. Braelon Allen’s 228 yards is the fourth straight 200 yard game by the Badgers against Nebraska, and seventh straight 100 yard game since 2014. Nebraska had their moments slowing down Allen, but two breakdowns resulted in 71 and 53 yard touchdown runs. Ben Stille made a couple of noteworthy plays, especially where he ran down Allen from the other side of the field. And Casey Rogers put up some numbers after Damion Daniels exited the game. Grade: C-

Linebackers: Quiet day as far too often, Nebraska’s inside linebackers were blocked to clear the way for a big run by Allen. Garrett Nelson did have Nebraska’s lone sack on the day, but also had a glaring missed tackle on Allen. Caleb Tannor gave EVERYTHING he had to stop Allen and force a first quarter third and short. You could tell that Allen felt the effects of that hit as well...but the length of time Tannor was down on the field allowed Allen enough time to recover to chug 71 yards on the next play. Grade: D

Secondary: Cam Taylor-Britt had a huge pass breakup, but too often, Nebraska’s secondary wasn’t quite ready to deal with Wisconsin downfield. Myles Farmer seemed to be exploited a bit in this game. And has anybody noticed how quiet Marquel Dismuke has been for the last month or so? The Blackshirts have been a key reason why Nebraska’s been competitive in each game this season, but Wisconsin’s offense hasn’t been this productive most of the season. Grade: D+

Special Teams: Brendan Franke finally made a mistake on kickoffs, and NU’s awful special couldn’t cover for it, putting NU in a 7-0 hole seconds into the game. Oliver Martin did have an opportunity to return a punt late in the game with nobody around him for seven yards, but elected to simply fair catch. Alante Brown’s muffed kickoff put NU deep in a hole. Bad, bad, bad...and it wasn’t just the specialists. Nebraska clearly needs new blood on special teams, but I think hiring a dedicated special teams coach would be an overreaction, because it leaves coaching responsibilities open elsewhere because teams can only have ten full-time assistants. Hire a running backs or receivers coach who can also coordinate special teams might be the best solution. I had already identified Florida’s Greg Knox as the type of coach who might be a good candidate, and now he’s going to be available next week with the dismissal of Dan Mullen. Grade: Low F

Overall: C- I know we’re all tired of “close” losses, but I do believe we HAVE to have hope. At least more hope than we had after Melvin Gordon put 408 on the Blackshirts. Hire a good offensive line coach, try to pick up a offensive tackle or two in the transfer portal, and then we’re closer to having an offense consistent enough to match up with the Blackshirts.

Poll

How would you grade the Huskers for their 35-28 loss to Wisconsin

  • 4%
    A - An option for Wisconsin fans
    (28 votes)
  • 17%
    B - But for a couple of plays and a blown call by B1G refs, it could have been the win.
    (98 votes)
  • 42%
    C - Could have won...but didn’t
    (243 votes)
  • 21%
    D - Defense couldn’t control Wisconsin’s Big Zero, and the Huskers didn’t win.
    (126 votes)
  • 13%
    F - Failed to win again, and I only grade pass/fail.
    (78 votes)
573 votes total Vote Now