Taylor, Badgers too much for Huskers in 37-21 defeat
In a game where many already felt they knew what was going to happen all week leading up to kickoff, Nebraska’s showdown with Wisconsin went a little different than the expected script.
In the end, though, the Badgers proved to be too much for NU to handle.
Running back Jonathan Taylor did his usual damage against NU’s defense, rushing for 205 yards and two touchdowns to help hand the Huskers a 37-21 defeat on Saturday afternoon.
The Badgers, which have now won the past seven meetings with Nebraska, racked up 482 yards of total offense and 320 on the ground. The Huskers offense kept it a game by rolling up nearly 500 yards of its own, but too many drives ended without points.
With the loss, NU dropped to 4-6 on the season and now must win their final two regular-season games against Maryland and Iowa to reach bowl eligibility.
Nebraska’s offense got off to a fast start and marched down to the Wisconsin 34-yard line on its opening drive. But back-to-back sacks ended the drive and forced a punt.
The Blackshirts answered with an early big play of their own, though, recovering a Taylor fumble after a catch at their 37. After a 22-yard pass to JD Spielman and a 12-yard run by Martinez, running back Dedrick Mills finished things off with a 12-yard touchdown run.
That marked just the second touchdown Wisconsin’s defense had allowed in the first half all season.
The celebration was short-lived, however, as Aron Cruickshank took the ensuing kickoff back 89 yards for a touchdown to tie the game up at 7-7 with 5:16 left in the first.
The Huskers again found success on the ground and moved the ball inside the UW 40. But the drive again ended without any points, as Mills was stuffed on fourth-and-three for a turnover on downs.
The Badgers needed to convert a fourth-and-six to do it, but they capitalized and took their first lead of the day on a 31-yard field goal Collin Larsh that made it 10-7 with 11:22 remaining in the second.
Nebraska responded right away with a 23-yard pass to tight end Jack Stoll and a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Wisconsin on the first play of the next drive. That led to a two-yard touchdown run by Martinez that put NU up 14-10.
The Huskers didn’t hold onto that momentum for very long, as Jack Coan hit A.J. Taylor over the middle on a deep slant, and Taylor bounced off two defenders for a 55-yard touchdown.
That was followed by a tipped Martinez pass for an interception by linebacker Jack Sanborn on the first play of the next drive, and Sanborn returned it to the NU 21-yard line.
Three plays later, Taylor bullied his way into the end zone for a one-yard rushing score to push UW’s lead to 24-14 with 5:03 left in the half.
After a quick three-and-out by the Huskers, Wisconsin took further control of the game with a 24-yard field goal from Larsh that increased NU’s deficit to 27-14 going into halftime.
Nebraska had a chance to cut into the lead to start the third quarter, but a 20-yard sack on Martinez led to a missed 41-yard field goal from Barret Pickering that left the Huskers empty-handed.
Wisconsin took advantage with a nine-play, 76-yard drive that ate up 5:26 and ended with an 11-yard touchdown run by Taylor to increase the lead to a commanding 34-14.
Needing a spark to keep the game within reach, the Huskers put together a string of plays of 21, 11, and 20 yards before Martinez hit Spielman for a 23-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 13 with 3:19 left in the third.
The Blackshirts came up with an important stop to get the ball back to open the fourth quarter, and two big runs by Martinez and Mills quickly moved NU deep into Wisconsin territory. But it would all be for not, as Martinez was stopped short on a fourth-and-four for another turnover on downs at the UW 16.
The Badgers turned that into a 30-yard field goal from Larsh and took another five and a half minutes off the clock in the process, moving the lead to 37-21 with 5:25 left in the game.
Nebraska had one last chance for a desperation rally when Martinez hit Kanawai Noa on a 36-yard pass down to the Wisconsin two. Just like the rest of the day had gone, though, that wasn't enough, as four straight plays were stopped short for yet another turnover on downs.
Mills finished with by far his best game as a Husker, rushing 17 times for 188 yards and a touchdown. Martinez threw for 220 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 89 more and a score.
Nebraska will return to action next week for their final road game of the season at Maryland. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT (3:30 ET) and will be televised on BTN.