Game Day: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin

Within reach

Wisconsin is big and physical. But in Nebraska’s last two games against the Badgers, it came down to the smaller stuff. The Huskers have zero margin for error, know it, and will be a double-digit underdog at home. In an up-and-down year, NU isn’t supposed to win this game, but can it?

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Wisconsin rush defense

The Huskers had better pack a lunch. Wisconsin’s run defense gives up just 2.43 yards per carry and has allowed just two runs of 20 yards or longer. The Badgers aren’t fancy against the run, they’re just consistent — consistently tough — with defensive linemen Conor Sheehy and Alec James and undersized-but-rawhide-tough inside linebackers TJ Edwards and Chris Orr. Nebraska has to be diverse in its run game and give carries to Mikale Wilbon, Devine Ozigbo and Jaylin Bradley. Nebraska’s offensive line has been better the last two weeks in wins over Rutgers and Illinois, but Wisconsin is a different kind of nasty. If Nebraska gains 100 yards on the ground, call it good.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Wisconsin pass defense

Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee wobbled badly through a three-game stretch in which he threw nine interceptions, but he righted the ship against Illinois’ secondary. That should help, as should a healthier trio of top wideouts in Stanley Morgan, De’Mornay Pierson-El and JD Spielman. NU’s receivers can make plays on Wisconsin’s secondary, which may be the best the Badgers have had in years but remains vulnerable because of the chances UW takes with its pass rush. The Huskers will have their hands full blocking Wisconsin’s front seven and its basket full of twists, stunts and blitzes. But if they can keep Lee protected, NU will have some downfield chances.

Wisconsin rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

The Badgers do what they do — they run the heck out of the ball with power plays and pulling offensive linemen and tough tight ends and fullbacks. In each of the last two games, Nebraska has actually held up against Wisconsin’s run game pretty well until the fourth quarter, when the Badgers got some chunk plays. NU defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s preference for rotating players in his front seven should pay off coming into this game, but Nebraska’s linemen and linebackers haven’t faced a line that averages 322 pounds. UW running back Jonathan Taylor, though just a true freshman, is fast and big. Nebraska can’t let him find open space.

Wisconsin pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Much depends on whether preseason All-America tight end Troy Fumagalli plays in the game. If he does recover enough from a leg injury to get in the game, Nebraska’s coverage assignment gets much harder, as Fumagalli is a giant, athletic target who can catch the ball over defenders. Wisconsin’s receivers — Jazz Peavy, Danny Davis, Quintez Cephus and AJ Taylor — are as good and perhaps a little better than Nebraska's receiving corps, and NU’s secondary isn’t as good as Wisconsin’s. That leaves the Huskers’ front to pressure Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook, the lefty with good touch but not much power.

Special teams

Nebraska has the more explosive returners (Spielman on kickoffs, Pierson-El on punts) while Wisconsin punter Anthony Lotti has often been excellent this season for the Badgers. NU kicker Drew Brown gets a slight nod over good friend Rafael Gaglianone — who wears No. 27 in honor of former Husker punter Sam Foltz — and Brown is one of the best kickoff guys in college football. Nebraska needs to find a way to steal a touchdown or some key field position here.

Intangibles

NU is 46-5 in home night games, and even if this is one of NU’s toughest, the Huskers have big recent wins (2015 Michigan State, 2014 Miami, 2009 Oklahoma) at night. Nebraska will be honoring the 1997 national title team and wearing alternate uniforms; the Huskers are 2-2 since 2009 in alternates at home. Wisconsin has a psychological advantage over every team in the Big Ten West. Since the West formed in 2014, Wisconsin has lost just one divisional road game — at Northwestern in 2014.

Key matchup: Nebraska’s offensive line vs. Wisconsin’s pass rush

The Badgers’ offense might be slowed some, but Nebraska won’t shut them down entirely, so, somewhere in the course of four quarters, NU will have to score some points and complete some passes. And Lee will only be able to do that if he has the time to do it. Look for the Huskers to throw some on first down to keep Wisconsin off-balance, but Lee has to make plays on third down.

Our take

Here’s the big one. Until Nebraska beats Wisconsin, the Big Ten West bully will continue to punch the Huskers with a power running game and a stingy defense. This isn’t the best NU team that’s come down the pike since 2011, but it’s probably not the best Badger team, either. Nebraska will need a quick start — Wisconsin occasionally can be sluggish early — and withstand the inevitable fourth-quarter UW surge. On the night Nebraska welcomes the 1997 national title team back to Memorial Stadium, the Huskers are game. They have a puncher’s chance.

Our prediction: WISCONSIN 24, NEBRASKA 20

Live updates

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Wisconsin matchup provided by the Husker 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 Red Today coverage

All of Nebraska's history vs. Purdue football is recent. Except one 1958 game

Nebraska and Purdue faced off as conference opponents for the first time in 2013, which ignited what will be at least 13 consecutive seasons with one another on the schedule. But 2013 wasn't the first overall matchup. Nope, that came…

Monday rewind: Nebraska football needs a spark — and maybe a little time 'away from each other'

We wrote this story out of Minnesota in 2013 and 2017, too. The names change. The clichés, too, a little bit. And even if it’s supposed to be different under Scott Frost — even if, one day, it is —…

Stopping the run is crucial in the Big Ten West, and Husker football ranks as the worst

Time and again, opposing coaches see Nebraska step off the bus and wonder if they can run the ball on them. And then they do.

'Keep it going or pack it up': Scott Frost delivers frank message to Huskers after Minnesota loss

Scott Frost had one hand in his pocket, and the other one was carrying a playsheet. And nothing was fine for the Nebraska football coach.

Shatel: Mugging in Minnesota shows Scott Frost's Huskers still lacking muscle, mindset

P.J. Fleck just shoved his oar right down Nebraska’s throat. People like to laugh at Fleck, the Minnesota football coach, saying he’s a huckster and a fake. Well, there was nothing fake about what Fleck’s Gophers did to Nebraska on…

Huskers 'knocked out of position' as physical Gophers pound Nebraska with ground game

The blank faces said it all. By the time Nebraska defenders trudged off the cold and misty field at TCF Bank Stadium, they had already processed much of the carnage. A 20-point third quarter that blew the doors off a…

Losing numbers: The stats and figures that defined Nebraska's loss to Minnesota

A closer look at the defining stats and figures from the Huskers' loss to Minnesota on Saturday.

Even with soft spots disguised as strengths, Minnesota finds room in Husker football's front seven

Minnesota carved up Nebraska’s defense with its run game Saturday night because it spotted soft spots disguised as strengths.

Nebraska-Minnesota: Breaking down the Huskers' performance on offense and defense

World-Herald staff writer Chris Heady takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers' loss to Minnesota.

Nebraska-Minnesota: Three things we learned, three things we still don't know

Three things we learned and three things we still don’t know about the Huskers coming out of Saturday's loss to Minnesota.

Husker pregame: Adrian Martinez not dressed for warmups; Noah Vedral poised for first start

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is not suited up for the game an hour ahead of kickoff and will not play against Minnesota.

$250,000-a-year consulting deal for former NU President Hank Bounds draws both concerns, praise

Some regents say it’s a win for Nebraska to bring Hank Bounds back because he is a good fundraiser who knows and cares about the projects involved. Some observers say they are perplexed by the amount he will receive, and…

They both have young offenses, but Minnesota can show Nebraska how fast they grow up

The Huskers think a strong second half is coming. Their counterparts in Minneapolis have already experienced it.

Shatel: What's up with Adrian Martinez? Is Noah Vedral ready? Let's ask Mario Verduzco

Noah Vedral knows the offense back and forward. We haven’t seen a lot of his game. He got in one game last year. And then last week. That’s the beauty of it, too. There isn’t a lot of film of…

Fremont senior offensive lineman Keegan Menning will walk on at Nebraska

Fremont senior Keegan Menning added his name to the list of walk-ons in Nebraska’s 2020 class on Thursday night.

Huskers discuss redshirt rule weekly, 'but things change.' Luke McCaffrey is the latest example

“It’s an awesome rule,” said Luke McCaffrey, who’s drawn raves from coaches and teammates while he redshirts and works to push Adrian Martinez for the starting role next season. “I think it’s fantastic.”

Mohamed Barry, Damian Jackson contenders for national awards

Mohamed Barry was named a quarterfinalist for the 2019 Lott Trophy, which recognizes a player who made the biggest impact on his team both on and off the field.

Huskers to practice outside Friday in preparation for 'football weather' in Minnesota

If it’s Christmas weather — 32 degrees — for Nebraska’s Saturday night game at Minnesota, well, Scott Frost can’t think anything much better.

Husker practice report, Oct. 10: Scott Frost not revealing playing status of injured players

While Nebraska's travel roster is rounding into form, the status of players at multiple key positions remains unclear.

106-year-old fan attends her first Husker game, meets Nebraska coach Scott Frost

"I just thought that I was on a different planet almost," she told The World-Herald. "It was a special place to be."

Husker opponent preview: Everything you need to know about the Minnesota Gophers

“Defensively, they’re a lot more sound than what we saw last year and more athletic," Scott Frost said. "They’ve definitely improved. You can tell it’s year three of his tenure up there. They’re starting to look like the team he…

Cold weather not changing Huskers' plan. Minnesota is pouring ice water on players

Weather, smeather. That was more or less the reaction from Nebraska offensive coaches Tuesday when probed about how they might adjust preparations for Saturday night's game at Minnesota that calls for temperatures in the mid-30s and a good chance of…

27 times Husker games were decided by a last-minute score since 2000

They've given you lifelong memories, permanent heartache, everlasting glee and eternal suffering.

Husker practice report, Oct. 9: Adrian Martinez, JD Spielman both in pads

Encouraging news this morning from Husker football practice. Adrian Martinez (knee) and JD Spielman (undisclosed) were both in pads for practice Wednesday.

Shatel: Noah Vedral's star-crossed turn involves Matt Turman's sister, Kansas State ... and fate

Earlier this week, I called Matt Turman to talk about his nephew, Noah Vedral, waiting and getting that big moment. But as we talked, it hit me that there's a bigger story. The story about the small, small world of…

Minnesota once told the Huskers they were 'no good.' Nebraska responded with 84 points

Nebraska has dominated Minnesota since 1963, claiming 19 of 22 games. But the Gophers have the all-time edge.

Bill Moos preaches patience, need for four-year development as Husker football makes 'evolution'

For Nebraska’s program to be full blast again, the A.D. says it will take two more recruiting classes and two more years of developing a walk-on program.

McKewon: Ronald Delancy brings more flavor from Miami, where they play defense with an edge

Nebraska received a commitment Tuesday from Miami Northwestern defensive back Ronald Delancy. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot, 165-pounder.

'Just gotta stay locked in': Husker defensive backs will be tested by trio of Minnesota receivers

Inside linebacker Mohamed Barry doesn’t usually concern himself much with wide receivers. This week, he’s at full attention.

Monday rewind: The Huskers' offense was better than the final score against Northwestern showed

Credit Scott Frost and his staff for squeezing just enough of true freshman Wan’Dale Robinson, Martinez and backup quarterback Noah Vedral to win against a defense that had given up three plays of 30 yards or more heading into the…