This game brought back bad memories of Nebraska’s 2014 game at Wisconsin, with the Huskers getting off to a fast start before Wisconsin got rolling. The big difference this year was that the 2023 Blackshirts had something in the tank to respond with after the Badgers got something established.
Wisconsin simply couldn’t run the Huskers out of Camp Randall.
But Nebraska’s offense continues to sputter, especially in the passing game. There’s raw talent in the receiver room, but there’s no real dependable experienced veteran. Add in a offensive line that isn’t doing a great job of pass blocking, and the passing game is a mess. A big toss early for a touchdown, then a struggle the rest of the way.
Many will object to Nebraska’s play calls in the closing minute, and to me, the memories of last week’s failures were still too strong. I could argue that Nebraska could have been a bit more aggressive and try to squeeze another play or two in before settling for the field goal, but did anybody really think that Nebraska was going to complete a touchdown pass in the final minute of the game? Let’s remember that Nebraska got into field goal range on the ground, not through the air.
So yeah... sigh.
With that, it’s on to the report card, and as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: Chubba Purdy gave us the most complete performance by a Nebraska quarterback in nearly a year. No turnovers until the final play of overtime (which was a desperation play anyway), 105 yards rushing, 65% completion percentage; that’s a solid effort, all things considered. Which raises the question to Matt Rhule and Marcus Satterfield: if the reports of Jeff Sims struggling with turnovers in PRACTICE are true, then why did they turn to Jeff Sims last week? It’s just one game, but Chubba Purdy looked like a quarterback Nebraska could rely on in 2024. If we see another strong performance from Purdy on Black Friday, the urgency level on getting a quarterback in the portal will drop significantly. Definitely need one for depth, but NU may not need to find a starter in the portal. Grade: B+
I-Back: Some of Nebraska’s play-calling during the scoring drought was suspect, because the I-backs were both pretty solid running the ball throughout the game. Frankly, they didn’t carry the ball enough, as far as I’m concerned. 25 carries for 95 yards combined between Emmitt Johnson and Anthony Grant is solid, as far as I’m concerned...but the total number of carries should have been in the thirties. Grade: B
WR: Malachi Coleman got some props from Todd Blackledge for his blocking. Fortunately for Alex Bullock’s family, no comment was made on the failed attempt to block for Billy Kemp on a screen pass. Purdy really needed some help from this receivers in this game, though some of the issues in the passing game came from not getting first team reps until this week. Receiver depth is going to be the #1 need in the portal with Kemp and Marcus Washington graduating; it was already pretty light going into this season, and injuries didn’t help at all. Grade: D
OL: This is a schizophrenic performance. I’m sure when the report cards come out, Bryce Benhart is going to grade really high; NU had some solid runs around the right side. The run blocking overall was really good. Pass blocking, on the other hand, was pretty abysmal. Purdy’s best option at times was to tuck and run. And penalties weren’t good, but with the third signal caller of the season, things might not be in sync. Grade: C-
DL: Ty Robinson was up to his disruptive self, though the stats weren’t there because the defense had to respect Tanner Mordecai’s mobility. So many missed opportunities to come up with a sack in this game...and in an overtime game, that might have been the difference in this one. Grade: B
LB: Oh, those missed opportunities for a sack. Here’s hoping that Nick Henrich isn’t badly dinged up. Grade: C+
Secondary: Marques Buford brought the boom, but the rest of the secondary was sadly a struggle, especially trying to cover Wisconsin’s Will Pauling. Grade: C-
Special Teams: I’ve seen others grade special teams an “F”...but I can’t go there as I still remember how awful it’s been the last eight years. I don’t know what’s wrong with Brian Buschini, but he’s clearly not kicking the ball well at all. Grade: D
Overall: C- Yet another missed opportunity to become bowl eligible. But Nebraska may have found a quarterback.
NBC: Being a huge fan of YouTube TV’s “multi-view”, I haven’t watched a lot of NBC’s Saturday Night broadcasts this season. Sometimes it’s because I’m still in Lincoln; sometimes it’s because NBC picked a non-competitive matchup. But aside from some shoddy camera work, NBC has put together a really compelling top-tier package. Noah Eagle is a rising star as a play-by-play announcer, and frankly, he’s better than his dad. Todd Blackledge is insightful, and a top-tier analyst. Plus a bit of a comedian, as this little bit on the pregame show proves.
That was a slap in the face to Liver and Onions equating them to Iowa.— Yuri Rowley (@nehusker4life) November 19, 2023
With CBS bringing their top team to the Big Ten next season, Fox is going to be a distant third in their broadcasting teams. When Nebraska gets to playing relevant games again on the road, I’ll be rooting for more CBS/NBC games and fewer Fox games. Nothing wrong with Joel Klatt; he’s good. But Gus Johnson is quite frankly closer to a Gilbert Gottfried than a top-tier announcer. Please Fox...pair Jason Benetti or Kevin Kugler with Klatt on your top games moving forward.
How would you grade the Huskers against Wisconsin?
A - Yes! Nebraska has a quarterback!
B - Just a few plays away from victory.
C - Could use a lot more offensive consistency
D - Didn’t win, but had a chance at the end
F - Failed to win. Period.