Wisconsin was able to defend its home field at Camp Randall Saturday night by holding off Nebraska 35-28.
Nebraska’s defense was without two starters in outside linebacker/nickel JoJo Domann and safety Deontai Williams, but also were down outside linebacker Pheldarius Payne, a key rotational piece on the front seven. Damion Daniels was injured during the game and missed key drives.
The Huskers were the walking wounded and still gave the Badgers a fight. But a loss is a loss, and the Huskers are winless in the last eight against Wisconsin. Here are three thoughts on the game:
Frost was dialing them up tonight
Since Scott Frost has been at Nebraska, his offenses have moved the ball against Wisconsin’s defense. The Huskers racked up 493 total yards in 2019 and a whopping 518 in 2018. Both games, however, were losses. Yards are good, but points and wins are better.
Give credit where it’s due. Frost was dialing them up Saturday night—he had his offense humming against one of the best defenses in the nation.
Wisconsin hadn’t allowed a touchdown in its last nine quarters dating back to Oct. 30 against Iowa. The Huskers took six plays to find the end zone to start the game, and they took 1 minute, 59 seconds to do it.
Nebraska had 157 yards in the first quarter, which was more than what Eastern Michigan (92), Illinois (93) and Iowa (156) all produced in their entire games against the Badgers. Nebraska’s 220 total yards at the half were more than what Purdue (206), Rutgers (207) and Northwestern (190) gained in four quarters.
With 6:27 left in the fourth quarter, Nebraska had 410 total yards, which was the most against the Badgers this season. Nebraska finished with 452 total yards, but that doesn’t mean much because the Huskers didn’t win the football game.
New faces seeing the field
Markese Stepp, Marvin Scott and Brody Belt at running back. Broc Bando on the offensive line. Thomas Fidone at tight end. Isaac Gifford filling in for JoJo Domann at nickel and Blaise Gunnerson for an injured Caleb Tannor.
There were new faces all over the field on Saturday. Stepp had 18 rushing yards, Scott had 29 and one touchdown. Belt added 33 yards on the ground. Fidone didn’t record a catch, but got his feet wet in the blocking game. Gifford finished with three solo tackles. Gunnerson added two stops.
Poor start to the third
Backup quarterback Logan Smoothers had taken the field for the last series of the first half, and at halftime it was revealed that Adrian Martinez may have sustained a shoulder injury.
Learning it might be a shoulder situation with Adrian Martinez causing Logan Smothers to be in for that final possession of the first half. #Huskers #NEBvsWISC
— Matt Coatney (@Coatman1) November 20, 2021
Martinez started the third whether he was hurt or not, and was picked off on a deep pass intended for wideout Oliver Martin on the third play of the drive. That play will be debated amongst fans, and rightly so. Here it is:
Collin Wilder read this one the whole way. 👀@WilderCollin // @BadgerFootball pic.twitter.com/61HZHy889B
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 20, 2021
Did it look like Martin was bracing for impact and not giving his full effort to make a play on the ball? Yes. But what was Martinez doing throwing that pass into triple coverage with a safety waiting on a route that had been run over and over in the first half? Both can be right—much like almost everything in football, that turnover wasn’t the fault of one player.
Wisconsin wound up scoring a touchdown after that takeaway, but Martinez and the offense answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped with a short rushing score from the man who threw the pick—Martinez.