Wisconsin came in to its game with Nebraska in firm control of the series between these two teams. Despite a slow start, that grip on the Freedom Trophy was even firmer after a 41-24 victory on Saturday night.
The win is Wisconsin’s sixth straight in the series and puts the Huskers to 0-5 to start the season.
Huskers quarterback Adrian Martinez did all he could to help his team, going 24-of-48 for 384 yards and two touchdowns. He added a team-high 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well.
However, he didn’t get much help from his defense.
Wisconsin was able to counter anything the Huskers did by controlling the ball and keeping the Huskers off the field long enough to make the quick-strike offense not matter.
UW ran the ball for 370 yards as a team — lead by Jonathan Taylor’s 221 yards and two touchdowns.
Both teams went over 500 yards of total offense, but it came down to key moments and that’s where the Badgers defense came up bigger.
They had three missed interceptions, but also had a pair of sacks, made Martinez scramble for his life, had five tackles for loss and forced the Huskers to go just 3 of 10 on third downs.
The final score may have indicated a comfortable win, but once again a slow start had Badgers faithful nervous.
UW got in to the red zone on two of its first three possessions of the game, but came away with just six points on a pair of short Rafael Gaglianone field goals.
Wisconsin ripped off 63 yards and took 7:53 off the clock on its first drive of the game. However, it resulted in just three points after the drive stalled out inside the Huskers 15-yard line.
Two possessions later and another promising drive stalled out at the Nebraska 9-yard line and it was just 6-0 Badgers with 12:58 to play in the second quarter.
UW’s defense helped spark things though, as they smothered Martinez and had him rattled for much of the second quarter.
Wisconsin’s offense finally got over the goal line on a Jonathan Taylor 3-yard plunge with 6:51 left in the half. Originally the play was ruled down at the one-yard line, but replay showed he got over the goal line prior to being down.
The lead was 13-3 at that point and then the Badgers got the ball in its most dangerous position — late in a half.
Hornibrook got the ball back with 2:13 to play in the half and like he is prone to do, helped lead a late touchdown drive. He had some help in form of sophomore running back Garrett Groshek, who gobbled up 31 yards on two carries in the drive.
But, a pass interference on Nebraska deep in its own territory put the Badgers easily in striking distance. Hornibrook made them pay after taking a coverage sack, hitting tight end Jake Ferguson for a 14-yard touchdown and a 20-3 lead with just 42 seconds left in the half.
Nebraska took the ball to star the second half and immediately busted out a 75-yard touchdown from Martinez to JD Speilman, who beat freshman safety Scott Nelson over the deep middle.
Wisconsin put any hopes of a comeback to rest on its next possession as Jonathan Taylor capped off a 7-play, 71-yard drive with a 21-yard untouched carry in to the end zone and a 27-10 lead.
The Badgers defense came up with a turnover on Nebraska’s next possession and the offense made sure to make them pay. This time it was senior running back Taiwan Deal with a 20-yard touchdown run for a 34-10 lead with 6:50 to play in the third quarter.
Martinez tried to put his team on his back, leading an 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to his tight end Jack Stoll. It was 34-17 Wisconsin with 4:20 to go in the third quarter.
But, Jonathan Taylor had other ideas in mind and after a few stalled drives on both ends he broke an 88-yard touchdown run and put the Badgers right back up by 24 points.
Nebraska wouldn’t go away though, as Martinez led a 95-yard drive and scored from seven yards out for his third touchdown of the day and a 41-24 scoreline with just over nine minutes to play.
The Badgers defense did enough to get by as injuries piled up in the secondary during the fourth quarter. Three missed interception opportunities could’ve changed the game even more, but in the end the secondary and front line found a way to get it done when it mattered most.
Wisconsin will look to get that secondary healthy as they head to a big date with the Michigan Wolverines next week in Ann Arbor. Kick is scheduled for 6:30pm CT on ABC.
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