Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz taken down by Nebraska Football Player
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

On The Rewatch: 5 Standout Plays Against Wisconsin

November 22, 2021

Nebraska gave Wisconsin all it could handle and more on Saturday in Madison. But like in every loss of the season, the Huskers crumbled in key situations and lost another game by one score, 35-28, to fall to 3-8 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten.

While a loss is a loss, no one can deny the Huskers fought hard against a better team and had great moments in the game. You remember the highlights, but here are five under-the-radar plays that fans may have missed on their first and only viewing.

Samori Touré starts with a bang

Samori Touré had seven catches for 113 yards and one touchdown, and he started the game with a bang by connecting with quarterback Adrian Martinez for 42 yards on the offense’s first play of the afternoon.

In the play above, Nebraska came out in 11 personnel (one back, one tight end) and has Touré on the line of scrimmage with Zavier Betts lined up behind him off to the side. Wisconsin’s defense is in zone coverage, and Touré runs a deep over route to the field, or long side.

Nebraska’s play-action in the backfield—as well as right guard Matt Sichterman pulling across the formation—draws in Wisconsin’s linebackers. But Betts’ route is what makes the play—he cuts underneath Touré’s route, which attracts the attention of safety Collin Wilder, leaving Touré all alone with corner Faion Hicks, who doesn’t have inside help from the safety, Wilder, who bit on the underneath route.

This was just one of many excellent passing plays drawn up by head coach Scott Frost on Saturday.

Travis Vokolek is all alone

As mentioned above, Frost was dialing up some well-constructed plays against Wisconsin, and the above clip, Travis Vokolek’s 16-yard catch to the Badgers’ 4-yard line, was one of them.

Nebraska faced second-and-8 from the Wisconsin 20, and came out in 12 personnel, with one back and two tight ends. There’s a lot going on with this play, the most important of which is misdirection. Sichterman pulls again, and Austin Allen looks like he’s split-zone blocking, but winds up extending it into a flat route to the field.

Martinez play-action fakes to running back Markese Stepp, who continues to run down the field on a wheel route, which draws away Wisconsin’s boundary outside linebacker Noah Burks. While all that is happening, Vokolek is winning an Academy Award for acting like he’s down blocking. In reality, he’s waiting a few counts before sneaking out to the boundary, which completely fools the Badgers.

Martinez hits Vokolek, who gets the ball to the 4, right in front of Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts (he’s wearing the black coat and black pants), who gave the play a round of applause on the sideline.

Damion Daniels gets in the backfield … again

It’s no secret that Blackshirt Damion Daniels is having his best season of his Nebraska career. On Saturday, he finished with two tackles but did a lot more against Wisconsin’s offensive linemen that doesn’t get on a stat sheet.

On the play above, Wisconsin’s offense faces a second-and-7 from its own 9. The Badgers want to run the ball to give themselves some more breathing room, and therefore come out with six offensive linemen, one tight end, a fullback and big 238-pound bruiser Braelon Allen. Nebraska’s defense counters with a traditional 3-4 look and walked down safety Myles Farmer into the tackle box, expecting run.

The Huskers guessed right, and Wisconsin runs outside zone to the boundary, or short side of the field. Daniels, who appears to be head-up on right guard Jack Nelson, slices into the backfield to take down Allen for the tackle for loss. It’s hard to know whose fault it was up front for the Badgers—Nelson and right tackle Logan Bruss may have miscommunicated on whose assignment it was to block Daniels—but that doesn’t take away from the excellent rep from the Huskers’ big defensive lineman.

Garrett Nelson, Isaac Gifford help stop Badger run

Nelson had a great day defensively overall on Saturday as he led the team with six tackles. On the play above, the Scottsbluff, Nebraska, native absolutely wrecked the Badgers’ run play.

Wisconsin comes out in 12 personnel and, at the snap, pulls two linemen to the field, or long side. Watch how quickly Nelson, who has his hand in the turf, tosses aside tight end Jake Ferguson and takes on the pull block of Joe Tippmann (#75). That’s called setting an edge and forcing the ball to the inside where all the help is. It was an excellent play from the Huskers’ rising outside ‘backer.

But another Husker does his job on the play in second-year freshman Isaac Gifford, who was replacing JoJo Domann, who is out for the rest of the season with a hand injury. Gifford is playing the nickel position in Nebraska’s defense, and his job is to keep contain. Once he sees the pulling linemen, he does what he’s taught and takes on the pull block of the 6-foot-6, 312-pound Tyler Beach. The 6-1, 205-pound Gifford holds his ground against Beach’s block, which, along with Nelson’s havoc, forces Allen to revert his running path back inside where Caleb Tannor and Cam Taylor-Britt were waiting for the tackle.

Nash Hutmacher gets in on the action

Nash Hutmacher, nicknamed “Polar Bear,” is a second-year freshman for the Huskers and someone who looks to have a bright future along Nebraska’s defensive line. He got run on Saturday against the Badgers and, as you can see on the play above, showed what he can do in the trenches.

Wisconsin has the ball at the Husker 5 and brings out one of its heavy packages with six o-linemen and two tight ends along with Allen. Nebraska counters with three defensive linemen (Ty Robinson, Hutmacher and Casey Rogers) and two outside ‘backers (Nelson and Blaise Gunnerson) for its five-man front.

The 6-foot-4, 325-pound Hutmacher is the only Husker linemen on the play that holds his ground. He stands up the 6-7, 304-pound Jack Nelson and combines to tackle Allen with Farmer. As you can see, Hutmacher possesses brute strength, which is exactly what you want in a Big Ten defensive linemen. The future is bright with the South Dakota native.

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