Huskers exit the field at Camp Randall Stadium following an overtime loss to Wisconsin in 2016.
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

The Case of a Moral Victory in Madison

October 30, 2016

Let’s talk about moral victories for a moment, shall we? According to Wikipedia, a moral victory “occurs when a person, team, army or other group loses a confrontation, and yet achieves some other moral game.”

So, did Nebraska win some kind of moral victory against Wisconsin?

“It showed we could play with the best of them,” center Dylan Utter said. “Going forward it shows that this team has a lot of fight and we’re not going to give up no matter who we play.”

In layman’s terms? Maybe.

Perception of Nebraska’s 23-17 loss will be whatever it will be. Some fans will feel one way while others will feel another. The media may think Nebraska proved it belongs in the national conversation, or it may not. As linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey said post-game, “It is what it is.”

“We fought a tough road opponent,” Rose-Ivey said. “We didn’t get what we wanted but there’s a lot of good things to take from the film. We’re not going to drag ourselves over this game. We still got everything we want to accomplish out there. Like we told the guys [in the locker room] is that the only thing that’s going to change is public opinion.

“As we saw coming into it, people doubted us anyway so it is what it is. It was a good game and a good hard-fought win for Wisconsin. We still control our destiny and we plan on keeping it that way.”

You can push Rose-Ivey a little further on the “public opinion” thing but he’ll just refocus it back to the team’s goals.

“We’re worried about our long-term goals and us losing this game tonight doesn’t affect that,” Rose-Ivey said.

That seems to be the general motto of Nebraska. A loss is not ideal but a lot was still gained. Player after player echoed this sentiment.

“Obviously you don’t want to lose but I personally have never felt closer to a group of guys than I do now with the guys that are in that locker room,” linebacker Josh Banderas said. “Everyone’s head is up. We played hard, man. We showed what this team could do. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted but we know exactly what we could do and we’re going to go back and we’re going to be so much better.”

Does that mean there can be some good taken from Nebraska’s loss? Absolutely. The Huskers didn’t get blown out in Madison, Wisconsin. That happened in 2011, 48-17. That also happened in 2014, 59-24. There was also that time in Indianapolis where Nebraska lost 70-31, but that’s another story for another day.

Yes, Nebraska lost to Wisconsin again. You may believe a loss is a loss no matter what happened but maybe – just maybe – something was gained from the Huskers loss at Camp Randall.

“Everything about our team I know is confirmed, which is they’ll continue to fight,” head coach Mike Riley said. “We certainly got to improve some things to finish out where we want to. There’s no doubt about it.”

According to Wikipedia, the gain of a moral victory “might be unrelated to the confrontation in question, and the gain is often considerably less than what would have been accomplished if an actual victory had been achieved.”

Nebraska would have gained more with a victory over Wisconsin. There’s no debate there. However, there was plenty to be proud of in how the Huskers fought and responded Saturday night, which hasn’t always been the case. Does that make it some kind of moral victory?

Maybe. Maybe not.

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