Oh boy. It’s hard to completely count these comeback kids out, but the Huskers certainly have never overcome a deficit like this.
The story so far: Wisconsin’s efficient and explosive offense slicing up Nebraska’s defense without any resistance for two quarters. The Badgers have 391 offensive yards and 290 of those have come on the ground (10.7 yards per carry right now).
UW offense has the Huskers off-balance and befuddled. The game plan (get NU in space and exploit match-ups) was perfect, and the Badgers have executed almost flawlessly. Throw in some horrible tackling by NU — did you see Melvin Gordon’s final run right before the half that set up ANOTHER score? — and it’s probably the worst first-half performance by the Blackshirts under Bo Pelini.
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s offense has been unable to keep up. The Huskers seem to have abandoned their ground game (Rex Burkhead had one second-quarter carry) — because the deficit is so large, maybe. And being one-dimensional against a well-coached defense is not a good idea.
Should be an interesting second half. Some observations are below…
>> Obviously, the Badger running backs are beating Nebraska’s defenders to the edge. How do the Huskers respond (or how could have they responded a quarter ago)? Well, the defensive ends need to do a better job of containment — though that’s difficult on quick-hitting fly-sweeps. NU could use its dime formation when Wisconsin lines up with both Montee Ball and Gordon/James White on the field, but then you’re opening yourself up to get attacked right down the middle. Tough call for the NU coaches.
>> Nebraska’s offensive line (especially its tackles) are having a hard time against Wisconsin’s pass rush. The Badgers’ D-line has disrupted several passing plays — and that’s even with a couple no-calls on what appeared to be holds.
>> Wisconsin has peered into the dusty and rarely viewed pages in the back of its playbook for this one. There was one trick play in the first quarter when the Badgers lined up just one guy next to the center and the quarterback (the other eight were split way out wide) — then Curt Phillips found Derek Watt for a 10-yard gain. … Another was a handoff to Jared Abbrederis on a fly-sweep and the receiver stopped and threw back to a WIDE OPEN Phillips to set up another UW touchdown, which made it 28-10. … And another was White’s touchdown PASS to Sam Armeson out of the Wildcat formation.
>> One guy who has been invisible so far? Eric Martin. Nebraska’s most disruptive defensive lineman. Joe Carter might actually have received more first-half playing time than Martin. Maybe Martin’s hurt????
>> Taylor Martinez has played pretty well (9-of-14 for 94 yards, and 11 carries for 96 yards), but that second-quarter fumble might be the play that we point to on Sunday as the one that sealed Nebraska’s fate. He has to carry the ball properly, even when dancing around and avoiding rushers behind the line of scrimmage.