Published Wednesday, September 28, 2011 AT 2:57 PM / Updated at 10:33 PM
Nebraska-Wisconsin spotlight: NU’s front four vs. UW’s OL
Sam McKewon Omaha World-Herald

Note: We’ll be breaking down smaller aspects of the Nebraska-Wisconsin game throughout the week. Here’s one.

Wisconsin’s offensive line has reputation for excellence. So does Nebraska’s defensive line.

But only one of these units has had a strong start to the 2011 season: The Badgers’ Big Boys. Is some of that because of UW’s soft schedule? Yes. Is some of that because of Husker injuries? Yes. But the gap is there, and NU’s front four has to close it this weekend to have a fighting chance in Madison.


>> Play lower: Defensive line coach John Papuchis confirmed earlier this week that the pad level of his defensive line wasn’t what he wanted it to be on a few plays this year. That’s not an uncommon problem really — Nebraska has lanky defensive linemen – but Wisconsin’s size can make it a real problem. Once those guys get their hooks in you, watch out.

>> Pressure up the middle: Russell Wilson is athletic, smart and accurate as a passer. But he is not terribly tall. One reason he moves so well is out of necessity — he has to find throwing lanes. A good, solid, up-the-middle pass rush not only obscures Russell’s field of vision, it can keep him contained in the pocket if the defensive ends stay disciplined.

>> Shed blocks: The Huskers’ two-gap defensive scheme tends to rely on linebackers making tackles. That’s a fine system, but Wisconsin makes a lot of running hay off of backside holes created when the playside hole is closed. UW’s running backs are schooled in the stop-and-go, pick-and-slide running style that eats defenses apart if they overrun plays. That’s why NU’s defensive linemen have to shed blocks and be ready for runs coming back their way.

About Sam McKewon

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him at And follow him on Twitter at @swmckewonOWH. And call him at 402.219.3790.


  1. Mike says:

    Should be fun to watch. Could be one of the best O-lines in Wisconsin’s hisory:
    RT: Wagner, 6’6″, 320-pound Jr, most athletic of the group.
    RG: Frederick, 6’4″, 330-pound Soph, strongest player on the roster—recently squatted 750 lbs, just shy of the school record.
    C: Konz, 6’5″, 315-pound Jr. A center that can pull and flatten a safety 20 yards down the field.
    LG: Zeitler, 6’4″, 315-pound Sr. Double major in engineering mechanics and computer science. Rarely makes a mental mistake.
    LT: Oglesby, 6’7″, 330-pound Sr. In ’07 was the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle prospect, according to Oglesby is backed up by Havenstein, a 6’8″, 345-pound redshirt freshman.

    1. Bill says:

      Sounds impressive. where these the same guys that played against TCU, or new guys that played against (cough) UNLV Oregon State and Northern Illinois?

  2. DaubsNU1 says:

    I absolutely love how all the media outlets are hyping the Badgers and bashing the ‘Skers. So much of this game is played between players ears. I have tons of respect for Coach B. at Wisconsin, but Coach Pelini gets to play the “we ain’t gettin no respect…” card on Saturday. NU 31, Wisconsin 16.

    1. Sam McKewon Sam McKewon says:

      Don’t worry. There are things that favor NU, too.

  3. natty natty Boi says:

    I love bo but im not fond of our two gap system bc if the lbs read wrong or over pursue were doomed. now dont go off on me im just saying its not work so well for us right now. wisky will take advantage of this if we dont improve on it.

  4. tim says:

    remember the Hornfrogs I do

  5. mac says:

    Our offense has to win this one, and it all falls on how accurate and composed martinez performs under pressure. Dont be surprised if the blackshirts give up 450 yrdz and 40 points. We are clearly overhyped and UW will expose us. Uw 45 Nu 23.

    1. Dave says:

      Don’t think NU is overhyped at all. Matter of fact, you don’t get overhyped when you are a ten point dog. Guess you’ll have to wait and see who gets exposed.

  6. Robert says:

    Oh man ! we’re ten point underdogs ?… Vegas says the Badgers are going to roll over the Huskers ?…and I’m sure Lee Corso will be wearing a badger hat. Them badgers must be really really good.
    I guess we’ll see on Saturday.
    Huskers 42 – Badgers 24 GBR !

  7. Stephen Johnson says:

    It certainly will be an interesting game. Much of it will be fought in the trenches. I think this might be a high scoring game. Kind of like OSU last year. Except Wisconsin will run more than they did. Nebraska will have a chance on offense but cannot afford a lot of 3 and outs or turn overs. Ball control and explosive when you can.

  8. brlrdr says:

    Well…at least we dont have to worry about the referees (Texas A&M 2010) It will be a slug fest. Nebraska has a faster QUICK strike team the W. This game will be something like the Oklahoma game last year, in the high 40′s. If only Nebraska’s defense shows up it will be a 3 point ball game with the prior Nebraska by 2 touchdowns. If both O&D show up. Nebrask by more than 2. Nebraska thrives on pocket passers. There guy has seen NOTHING like the Big Red attack when unleashed by the Pelini brothers. I agree with the article…a push up front will make or brake the game. Dont expect to much until the 2nd or 3rd quarter. Im outta here!

  9. wa husker says:

    brlrdr -
    We have apparently been watching different NU football teams this fall…WHAT push up front are you talking about? This defense is being shoved around and dominated in the secondary. The situation at corner is nearly desperate and we have made nearly every QB so far this fall – except our own – look like Tom Brady . This won’t be close. And I think Pelini is rightly going to start taking heat for not seeming to put an effective team on BOTH sides of the ball together in the same season. UW 49 – NU 10.

    1. Frank says:

      What games have you been watching that leads you to believe WI holds this Husker offense to 10 points. You’re not a Wa Husker, seem more like a Husker hater until we win and you take your seat on the bandwagon fan. The Pelinis aren’t going to let this team run over us. If we get beat at all, it will be by a touchdown. I would rather have our “still getting ourselves together” blackshirt defense any day rather than Wisconsin’s D who seems to be playing fairly well against competition. We’re capable of playing great on both sides of the ball. Why even call yourself a fan if all you’re interested in is the team living down to your expectations so you can say “I told you so.”

      1. U.N.-Believable says:

        How does the crow taste today Frank? Prior to the Wis. game we struggled with unranked teams we should have destroyed. Wis. rolled over every team they played going into Saturday’s game, and they were at home! We may not lose again this season but we were out-classed last night! Time to go look at photos of Melissa Midwest and forget about the game!

  10. ken gilmore says:

    im just glad shawn is gone

  11. T Darnall says:

    I don’t like the two gap defense at all. If only works if you have the two best cornerbacks in the nation, like last year. All the pressure is on the cornerbacks and db’s. The DT’s become blockers to keep offensive lineman off the linebackers. The only linebacker we have making plays right now is David, so it is not working. We need an all out assault of rushing their QB. I don’t think Carl Pelini is going to do that, so we are in big trouble! What happened to the talk that NU would have the best D-line in the Big Ten? What happened is called two gap defense!

  12. Mike Thomas says:

    There you have it…all of a sudden Bo and Carl are idiots, WOW! Mark my words, this will be the best defensive game we play all year and we’ll win this game by two touchdowns.

  13. MichaelB says:

    I guess you all should have been hired to coach the Huskers. You obviously know so much more than Bo, Carl and Tim…. If you don’t know the first thing about this team, and really football in general, then sit back and just enjoy the ride. Don’t try to analyze, you are just making yourselves look foolish!

  14. DJ says:

    I like football.

  15. yeppppp says:

    And the winner for best comment so far goes to……………… DJ!