Game Day: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin

WORST NIGHTMARE

At 2-3, Nebraska coach Mike Riley is off to a rough start. Concerns abound. Injuries mount. Questions arise. Body language is studied. Tea leaves are read. The psyche of Husker football — coaches, players, fans — is vulnerable. And here comes Wisconsin, the chief instigator of Nebraska’s pain since NU entered the Big Ten.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Jon Nyatawa

Nebraska rush offense vs. Wisconsin rush defense

Nebraska's embracing the emergence of fullback Andy Janovich and freshman Devine Ozigbo. The elusive and shifty Terrell Newby is still the top rusher, but this appears to be a three-man rotation going forward. Since giving up 238 rushing yards in a season-opening loss to Alabama, Wisconsin is holding opponents to 2.1 yards per carry. The Badgers have allowed just 14 runs of 10-plus yards.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Wisconsin pass defense

Tommy Armstrong has the lowest completion rate (54.4 percent) of any quarterback ranked among the nation's top 25 in passing yards per game, but Indiana's the only Big Ten team averaging more yards per completion than Nebraska (13.5). Protecting him will be key. Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel can create lots of havoc. The Badgers have 15 sacks. But there might be just enough scheme-created windows for Jordan Westerkamp, Stanley Morgan and Brandon Reilly to get loose.

Wisconsin rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

There's no Melvin Gordon, the talented back who ran for 408 yards in three quarters against the Huskers last season. The player expected to replace Gordon, Corey Clement, is injured. So far, the Badgers have produced just four runs of 20-plus yards. They led the country in that category last year. Nebraska ranks 22nd nationally allowing 3.1 yards per carry — but they've faced an average of 27.6 rushes per game, the second-fewest rate in the country.

Wisconsin pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Nebraska still ranks last in the country in passing yards allowed per game (353.8). But is Wisconsin capable of exploiting NU's weakness? The Badgers are without their top pass-catching tight end, Austin Traylor. Their No. 1 receiver, Alex Erickson, is questionable. Their quarterback, Joel Stave, has made 33 career starts, but he's also thrown 30 interceptions. Then again, though, the U-W play-action passing game tends to get receivers open. Stave may have some moments.

Special teams

Wisconsin's only recorded six touchbacks on kickoffs this year, but opponents' average starting field position is their own 21.0 yard line (second-best nationally). The Badgers are also holding teams to just 3.4 yards per punt return. The Huskers haven't been as sharp as they would like to be in the kicking game. Punter Sam Foltz enjoyed his best performance of the season last week. Nebraska's also hoping to get playmaker De'Mornay Pierson-El going again.

Intangibles

Confidence is shaken within the Husker locker room after three close losses — two of which could have easily been victories with proper game management down the stretch. But Wisconsin didn't begin the week with much positive momentum, either. The Badgers lost 10-6 to Iowa despite gaining 99 more yards and controlling the action after halftime. They need a win. But expect NU, boosted by the comfort of a home stadium, to play like the more desperate team.

Key matchup: Key matchup: Nebraska's wide receivers vs. Wisconsin's cornerbacks

The NU players know that the Badgers will shift coverages and try to keep them guessing. But whether it's zone defense or a man-to-man look, the Huskers are expecting one commonality from the Wisconsin defensive backs: a physical approach. The Badgers like to play an in-your-face and attacking style. They'll shove and grab. They push you around, if you let them. We'll see how Nebraska responds.

Our take

The reward for this Saturday's matchup was supposed to be a driver's seat position within a potentially jam-packed Big Ten West division race. Instead? It's all about survival. The loser goes to 0-2 in league action, a dismal (and perhaps fatal) start that neither team wants. Both the Huskers and Badgers are flawed, bruised and a little frustrated. Both can rebound now — but they'll need their play-makers to step up. NU appears to have just a couple more game-changers.

Our prediction: Nebraska 20, Wisconsin 17

Live updates

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will start broadcasting live at 1 p.m. Saturday, then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show with Mike'l and Joe Ganz. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Wisconsin matchup provided by the NU Athletic Department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History Database is your new home for archiving one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks. Plus, look back at historical moments in Nebraska football by following @HuskerHistory on Twitter.

BRT app

IPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Husker running back Greg Bell hitting practice hard in hopes of winning starting spot

Hit it and get it. Nebraska running back Greg Bell doesn’t want to dance in the hole, slow down for a second or, truth be told, even talk about himself. Too much competition. Too big of a reward if he…

Husker notes: Tight ends shine in NU's scrimmage; Tyjon Lindsey catching on and more

One popular opinion among Husker offensive coaches Wednesday was that the tight ends solidified their reputation as much as any unit following Sunday's live-action scrimmage.

Shatel: With Scott Frost's new-school approach, curse words aren't in Husker coaches' vocabulary

New School is now in session. Here are the rules: No dog-cussing the players. No bullying or personal shots about their appearance. If you must chew, do so with a positive message. Teach. Look forward.

Tom's Takes: Nebraska's offensive line is adding physicality to its DNA

Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin offered a pretty insightful analysis of where the offensive line is two weeks before the Akron opener. There's good news. And could-be-better news.

As decision looms, Nebraska's quarterbacks still have moments of inconsistency

There are days Mario Verduzco grades film of Nebraska quarterbacks and likes what he sees. Good ball placement. Strong body language. Quick tempo. Then there are workouts like last Thursday and Friday, which the Husker QB coach labeled "kind of…

Husker practice report: Nebraska quarterback battle will continue into next week

Nebraska wrapped up its 11th workout of training camp Wednesday morning inside the Hawks Center. Afterward, offensive coordinator Troy Walters said Scott Frost — with input from his staff — will pick a starter soon between Tristan Gebbia, Adrian Martinez…

Want to make an all-Husker fantasy football team? Well, you can't. But here's something close

If you're looking for a nostalgic Husker pick in your upcoming fantasy football draft, here's your guide.

Sights and sounds from Nebraska football practice, Aug. 15

Nebraska kicked off practice early Wednesday morning. Media were allowed to watch about 40 minutes. Here's what we saw and heard.

Husker coach Mario Verduzco says QB battle still 'highly competitive'

Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco gave some insight into the quarterback battle on Sports Nightly Tuesday evening.

Allure of scholarships leads in-state players to lower-level programs instead of Huskers

Interstate 29 represents one of Scott Frost’s biggest in-state recruiting headaches. FCS schools in the Dakotas can’t compete with a Nebraska scholarship offer, but they can damage the Huskers' depth by taking players that may have otherwise walked on at…

In his first fall camp at Nebraska, aspiring dentist Tre Neal already knows the drill

Tre Neal, the Husker with more knowledge of the defense than anyone after transferring from UCF, has risen to the top of Nebraska's production chart that keeps score of plays made and not made in practices by members of the…

Mississippi transfer Breon Dixon wants to 'bring physicality' to the Husker defense

Breon Dixon can’t breathe. He’s cornered by reporters on the second floor of the Hawks Championship Center, gasping for air. “We’re looking way better I’d say as a team, as an offense …” out of breath, he trails off and…

Husker notes: Closing in on defensive starters; Tight races in secondary and more

Nebraska’s defensive coaches have a good grasp on who will be in the top two units after a major scrimmage Sunday, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Tuesday.

TBL: Blackshirt legend Grant Wistrom happy to deliver message to Huskers

Former Blackshirt Grant Wistrom believes Scott Frost is the right coach for the Huskers.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost says 'we’re never going to swear at kids' on Jim Rome Show

In the wake of reports about Maryland football’s toxic, bullying culture toward the players, Nebraska coach Scott Frost said Tuesday on the Jim Rome Show he’ll never try to motivate his team through intimidation.

Everything you need to know before attending Nebraska football Fan Day

The lines are sure to be long for Scott Frost's first Fan Day as head coach of the Huskers. Here's everything fans should know before attending the event.

'High intensity' talk from Jason Peter, Grant Wistrom inspires Husker defense

The pep talk worked. After Nebraska legends Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom talked to Husker players Friday night, the team had its most-spirited practice of training camp the following day.

Tickets available now for Husker Nation Kickoff Luncheons in Omaha, Lincoln

Tickets are on sale now for next week's Husker Nation Kickoff Luncheons in Lincoln and Omaha.

Husker practice report: Carlos Davis, JoJo Domann among players impressing in camp

Nebraska's defensive coaches have a good grasp on who will be in the top two units after a major scrimmage Sunday, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Tuesday. The next week is about trying to identify starters.

Nebraska has structure in place to avoid problems plaguing Ohio State, Maryland, says A.D. Bill Moos

Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said Monday on his monthly radio show there's a structure in place to make sure the athletic department avoids problems like what's currently plaguing Ohio State and Maryland.

Police arrest two more, including teen boy, in burglary at Husker coach Scott Frost's home

Police arrested a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of burglary, according to a news release from the Lincoln Police Department.

Past Husker coaches weren't sold on in-state talent, so Nebraskans thrived at Iowa instead

What happened in Giltner is a prime example of Nebraska’s in-state recruiting failures over the past 15 years. Another instance of a program that lost track of its identity and abandoned its roots.

Shatel: The image-conscious Big Ten isn't looking so good these days

If anyone asks you about being in the Big Ten these days, say, “We just got here, and we really don’t know anybody.”

Scott Frost considers intense new warmup to be a 'rite of passage' for Huskers

The dynamic warmup — or “stretch” as Scott Frost calls it — is a far cry from the static, stationary stretches employed under former coach Mike Riley. Setting the tone for the fast-paced action of practice, the new warmup is…

Barfknecht: With all the scandals, nothing is 'hunky-dory' for Jim Delany's Big Ten

Three weeks ago, we sportswriters scurried to our seats at Big Ten media days, sat upright in our chairs and kept our eyes forward to soak in Commissioner Jim Delany’s “hunky-dory’’ speech. But things haven’t been so hunky-dory since that…

Concussions turned a 200-pound fullback into a reluctant cross country runner

Beau Wood should’ve been Perkins County High School’s starting fullback and defensive end. Instead, he had become a reserve — on the cross-country team.

Nebraska high schoolers are turning away from football and embracing ... cross country?

Auburn had 81 players on its 2006 state championship football team. Last fall it had 29. Dozens of kids have turned away from football and found an alternative — cross country.

Husker Rewind: Ready to run the ball? Nebraska has its deepest stable of backs since 2011

Sam McKewon zeroed in on as many Husker running backs ran by. Collectively, it’s best bunch NU has had since 2011, when Burkhead started and Abdullah, Green and Heard backed him up.

Maryland puts coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave amid football investigation

Maryland placed head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave on Saturday while the school scrutinizes allegations of poor behavior by the football staff, apparent misdeeds that came to light following the death of a player on the practice field.

As populations plummet in northeast Nebraska, kids still dream of becoming the next Russ Hochstein

Hartington, a town resisting the forces of rural decline, hasn’t boasted a Husker football letterman since its All-America guard 17 years ago. But Scott Frost is back in Lincoln and there’s hope that the drought may end soon, perhaps with…