Nebraska played their most complete game of the season last Friday against a badly outmatched Illinois team allowing the Huskers to leave Champagne with a 28-6 victory that actually wasn’t as close as that blowout score would indicate. The Blackshirt defense continues to improve and has now allowed only 23 points over the last 3 games. The Husker offense, including quarterback Tanner Lee, appeared to make strides even against Illinois’ young defense. Lee finished the game having completed 17 of 24 passes (including four bad drops by wide receivers) and no interceptions for the first time since week 1. I have been, let’s say ‘critical’, of Tanner Lee but he looked poised and comfortable against Illinois. Plainly, the Huskers finally looked really good. But…
The Big Dog is coming to town this weekend.
Nebraska football is 4-7 all time against the Wisconsin Badgers, including a 1-5 mark since since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. It’s been lopsided in the past but the last two match-ups have been decided by only 8 total points. The Huskers are making strides against their divisional opponent, and main obstacle on their path to a division title, but Wisconsin still holds the edge. Close games have stayed just out of reach because the Huskers’ undisciplined play. Turnovers and penalties are the only difference in the last two match-ups. How can the Huskers take that next step? The home stretch starts now for the Huskers (back to back home dates with top 10 opponents, yay!) and it’s time for Nebraska and head coach Mike Riley to prove that all the off-season hype was worth it. How? I’m glad you asked.
No Yellow Hankies
Nebraska has a propensity to shoot themselves in the foot with big penalties at bad times. Tanner Farmer was pulled last week after a late (so very, very late) hit on a defensive player and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh wasn’t having any of it. As a person who has called for these coaches, Cavanaugh in particular, to sit guys who are hurting the team, I was very encouraged. Let’s hope the rest of the team gets that message. The build-up for this game reminds me of Miami 2014 so I expect it to get chippy. Play clean against Wisconsin and let them make the mistakes for once.
Your Weekly Reminder to Kindly Run the Football
This would’ve been a lot easier if either Tre Bryant or Mikale Wilbon (or both, frankly) were available against Wisconsin. Sadly, this doesn’t look like the case. Devine Ozigbo has been on fire posting back-to-back 100 yard rushing games but he’s always better in the 4th quarter. Not to mention that Wilbon’s back-up is Jaylin Bradley, a true freshman with just seven carries on the season. I’m not sure how Nebraska’s running back depth is this bad but here we are and here we’ll be on Saturday. Even without that personnel, Nebraska has to find a way to move the ball on the ground to limit pressure on Tanner Lee.
Keep Everything Underneath
Wisconsin’s offense likes to run the football. I’ll let you recover from the shock of that statement. Where Wisconsin really beats teams, though, is by lulling them to sleep and taking a couple of big shots downfield. Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook isn’t a dangerous threat with his arm but he can do just enough to beat a defense that decides to sneak up too close to the line of scrimmage. Keep Wisconsin’s offense in front of you and make them earn their way down the field.
- 66.7% – Alex Hornibrook’s completion percentage through 4 games.
- 30 – career interceptions in 24 games by QB Tanner Lee
- 16 – sacks by Wisconsin’s defense through 4 games (Nebraska’s defense has 8 sacks in 5 games).
- Back foot, YOLO-bombs by both Tanner Lee and Alex Hornibrook.
- 200+ mentions of Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli.
- The Jet Sweep.
Nebraska 17 – Wisconsin 24
And me with a tear in my eye looking at those throwback jerseys.