World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust takes a look at key players, plays and more on both sides of the ball during Nebraska’s 70-31 loss to Wisconsin.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
NU star: There really wasn’t one on a miserable night for Nebraska, but I-back Rex Burkhead kept fighting in a season marred by a left knee injury that cost him six games of his senior season. Burkhead finished with 61 yards on 11 carries and also caught two passes.
Highlight: The Taylor Martinez 76-yard touchdown run for the Huskers’ first score was something else. The junior quarterback was as far back as the NU 6 at one point as the Badgers gave chase. He then left several Wisconsin defenders looking helpless as he turned it upfield.
Busted play: It’s understandable that he was trying to make a play, but Martinez was in trouble on the Huskers’ first possession of the second half and chose to throw a pass into the right flat rather than take the sack. Martinez hit Devin Smith right on the numbers, and the Wisconsin cornerback returned the interception 22 yards to the Husker 9.
Our take: No telling what it meant specifically for the Nebraska game plan, but getting thrown into a 14-0 hole before the Huskers ran their second offensive snap could not have been a good thing. The hole only got deeper from there, which basically neutralized Burkhead as a running threat and allowed the Badgers to get after Martinez. NU also went into a funk at the wrong time, failing on four straight offensive series as the Wisconsin lead ballooned from 21-10 to 42-10 by halftime.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
NU star: Whew, who do you pick in a game where Nebraska gives up 70 points and 640 total yards? Junior cornerback Andrew Green did lead the unit with eight solo tackles.
Highlight: Again, hard to pick something out of the wreckage, but the Huskers did come up with a three-and-out immediately after cutting the Wisconsin lead to 14-7.
Busted play: Anything involved with defending the Badgers’ jet sweep. But none was more painful to watch than Melvin Gordon running around the right side and going 60 yards to the NU 3 with six seconds left in the first half. Wisconsin scored on the next play for a 42-10 halftime lead. The Badgers had looked halfway interested in just running out the clock after taking over with 1:01 left.
Our take: If you wanted a play that summed it all up for Nebraska, go back to the 57-yard touchdown run by Montee Ball in the third quarter, where he stiff-armed Ciante Evans right in the face at the 20. NU couldn’t stop Ball (202 yards rushing, three TDs), couldn’t defend the jet sweep (Gordon ran for 216) and couldn’t so much as rattle Curt Phillips in just his fourth career start at quarterback. Back to the drawing board after the Huskers thought they had things figured out during the six-game winning streak.