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Aw Shucks: Wisconsin Rolls Over Nebraska in Big Ten Opener

by Photo of Jake Langbecker

The Badgers enter the national title discussion

Aw Shucks: Wisconsin Rolls Over Nebraska in Big Ten Opener

The Wisconsin Badgers heard it all week. Despite outscoring opponents 194-34 in the first four weeks of the season, the Badgers hadn't proved anything. 

Nebraska was ranked #8 in the country, a team that prides itself on defense. The Big Ten opener would be their first real test. UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois and South Dakota aren't Nebraska. 

It would not be that easy.

Well Wisconsin did not get the memo because it looked easy as they decisively won 48-17. If this was their first test, the Badgers look well on their way to a 4.0 GPA and a potential trip to the National Championship.

Reports suggested as many as 30,000 Nebraska fans made the trip to Madison, Wisconsin for the Cornhuskers first ever game in the Big Ten. They came dressed in black to differentiate themselves from the Badgers faithful decked in red. But Saturday night wasn't about the 30,000 Nebraska fans that came, it was about one man's decision to come to Madison. 

His name is Russell Wilson. He's gotten the Badgers firmly in the discussion for the national championship and has thrust himself into the Heisman race.

Against Nebraska, Wilson was 14/20 passing for 255 yards with two touchdowns and another score on the ground. The 14 of 20 performance actually lowered his completion percentage for the year.

The transfer from NC State has been nothing short of spectacular this season. Wilson has thrown for 1,391 yards, 13 touchdowns, and one interception with a 74.8 completion percentage. Wilson leads in those categories when compared to fellow Heisman contenders Andrew Luck of Stanford and Kellen Moore of Boise State.

In addition to his passing abilities, Wilson put his evasive running style on full display Saturday night. Avoiding preseason All-American Jared Crick on a couple of occasions, Wilson displayed the ability to extend plays and scramble for first downs when necessary. 

The combination of accuracy and athletic ability is something that hasn't been seen from a Wisconsin signal caller in some time. Scott Tolzien had the accuracy, Tyler Donovan the speed, and Brooks Bollinger had a bit of both but none of those quarterbacks did it at such a high level like Wilson.

"To me, if there's a better player in college football right now," Bielema said, "I'd like to see it. The big stage, he thrives on it." (As told to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

It was not all about Wilson on Saturday night. He also had plenty of help from his defense.

"The fact that our defense stepped up and made some great plays, and our offense just continued on course, it’s just trusting in what we were doing,” Wilson said.  

After falling behind Nebraska 14-7 early in the second quarter, Montee Ball capped off a Wisconsin drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 14-13 following a blocked extra point. The Badgers still trailed and two of Nebraska's first three drives resulted in touchdowns.

The Nebraska offense was rolling behind the legs of quarterback Taylor Martinez but then his arm got him into trouble. Mike Taylor picked off a Martinez pass on the ensuing drive which led to a Badgers touchdown. Then it was Aaron Henry who picked off Martinez on the next offensive possession for Nebraska leading to another Wisconsin touchdown and a 27-14 lead at halftime.

The Badgers defense was not done yet. Antonio Fenelus intercepted Martinez to start the second half and that too led to a Badgers touchdown. In all, the Badgers scored 21 points off turnovers and that was one of the difference makers in their 48-17 victory.

All of those questions and doubts from earlier in the week are gone. After a big showcase game under the lights and on national television people aren't asking if Wisconsin is for real anymore. They're talking about national title aspirations.

Wisconsin has a bye this week before hosting Indiana at home. The toughest games remaining on their schedule are road dates against Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois. Then there's the inaugural Big Ten Conference Championship which could be a rematch against Nebraska. 

Unless Wisconsin stumbles, they figure to be favored in all their remaining games, paving a potential path to New Orleans for the National Championship. They'll need some help as it is unlikely they will make it over an undefeated Big 12 team and even a one-loss SEC team. 

For now WIsconsin will do as it has always done under Bielema, take it one game at a time and try to go 1-0 every week. 

"That's looking way, way far into the future," he said. "But really to get there, we have to stay focused on every opponent we come up against. We are going to keep the one-game mentality and make sure that we stay hungry." (As told to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

For Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers it's time to figure out what is going wrong with the vaunted "Blackshirts" defense as they try to get back on track in conference play. Clearly, Pelini was not happy about how Nebraska officially entered the Big Ten.

"Defensively, we didn't make plays. I'm embarrassed by how we played defensively. I apologize to the fans of Nebraska, because that was a joke. Plain and simple," Pelini said.

For the best seats to the college football action in your area be sure to visit Charged.fm


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