Posted by: Sports
Call it Big Red redemption times two.
The No. 22/20 Nebraska football team (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) made amends for a series of first-half miscues to match the second-biggest comeback in school history by rallying from a 17-point third-quarter deficit to notch a 30-27 victory over defending Big Ten champion No. NR/23 Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) on Saturday night.
Playing in front of 85,962 fans and an ABC prime-time television audience in the NCAA-record 322nd consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium, the Huskers rallied from a 27-10 deficit with 10:29 left in the third quarter.
The win also avenged Nebraska's 48-17 loss to the Badgers in the Huskers' first-ever Big Ten Conference game last season at Madison, Wis.
Senior place-kicker Brett Maher produced the winning margin with his 41-yard field goal field goal with 9:41 left. Maher's kick - his third field goal of the game - capped a stretch of 20 unanswered points for the Huskers in a span of 14:37.
Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez played a starring role in the comeback, producing the 10th 100-yard rushing performance of his career. The junior from Corona, Calif., rushed 13 times for 107 yards, including a 38-yard scoring sprint to start NU's third-quarter rally.
Martinez also completed 17-of-29 passes for 181 yards with two more scoring strikes, including a 10-yard connection with tight end Kyler Reed to pull NU within 27-24 with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
Maher's second field goal of the night, a 38-yarder with 55 seconds left in the third quarter tied the score at 27, before his decisive kick sealed Nebraska's 10th straight home night win and 850th victory in program history.
Nebraska's Blackshirt defense also played a major role. Will Compton, Alonzo Whaley and the rest of the Blackshirts all but shut down the Badgers in the second half. The Husker defense limited Wisconsin to just 84 yards of total offense after halftime, including just 16 on the ground. UW amassed 205 of its 289 total yards for the game in jumping to a 20-10 halftime lead.
In a battle of All-Big Ten running backs, Wisconsin's Montee Ball scored three touchdowns for the Badgers, but the Blackshirts held UW's big back to 89 yards on 30 carries. For the game, Wisconsin managed just 60 rushing yards on 38 carries. Last season, Ball notched four scores and 151 yards on 30 totes.
While the Blackshirts bottled up Ball for just 27 second-half yards, Nebraska's All-Big Ten back Rex Burkhead rumbled and juked for 63 yards after halftime to help the Huskers amass 259 yards on the ground for the game. It was NU's fifth straight game with 250 or more rushing yards to open the season. Burkhead finished with 86 yards on 18 carries.
But Burkhead's winning day to start so rosy.
A series of Husker miscues early in the first eight minutes led to a 14-0 Wisconsin lead. NU won the toss and chose to receive but the Huskers only returned the opening kickoff to the 10. A fumbled opening snap handcuffed the Husker offense and led to a three-and-out.
Maher helped the Huskers flip the field with a 55-yard punt, but a 54-yard pass from Joel Stave to Abbrederis put the Badgers in the NU red zone. Ball capped a 71-yard drive with a three-yard scoring run to give Wisconsin a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
On Nebraska's ensuing drive, Burkhead had a potential big play on a toss to the left end in misfortune when he ran into offensive lineman Spencer Long and fumbled after a six-yard gain. Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland recovered the fumble.
The Badgers capitalized seven plays later on Ball's second short scoring run, this time from one yard out on 4th-and-Goal to give UW a 14-0 lead.
Sophomore Ameer Abdullah sparked the Huskers with an 83-yard kickoff return, but NU was unable to punch it in the end zone after starting the drive at the Wisconsin 13. Maher's 26-yard field goal trimmed the Badger lead to 14-3 with 5:29 left in the first quarter.
Abdullah finished the night with 252 all-purpose yards, including 142 on kickoff returns, 18 more on punt returns, 70 rushing yards and 22 yards on three receptions on NU's first touchdown drive.
Wisconsin answered NU's field goal with its third touchdown of the half early in the second quarter, as Stave connected with Abbrederis on a 29-yard touchdown strike. The pass play capped a 10-play, 65-yard drive for the Badgers that was extended by a roughing the punter penalty of the Huskers. Abbrederis had five receptions for 107 yards in the first half, but NU kept in check with just two catches in the second half. Abbrederis finished the night with seven receptions for 142 yards.
After the two defenses exchanged three-and-outs, Nebraska put together its best drive of the half by marching 93 yards on 12 plays in 5:13 capped by Martinez's three-yard touchdown pass to Burkhead. Martinez went 7-for-7 for 53 yards on the drive, while adding 32 yards rushing to cut Wisconsin's lead to 20-10 at the half. Martinez completed 10-of-13 passes for 75 yards, while adding 42 yards rushing on six carries to account for 117 of NU's 143 total yards in the half.
Nebraska's second half started much like the first. After a defensive stop on Wisconsin's opening drive, the Huskers picked up a quick first down on their opening offensive play. But after a pair of incomplete passes, UW's David Gilbert forced a fumble just before Martinez started his throwing motion. The Badgers recovered at the NU 13, and Ball notched his third short touchdown run of the day four plays later to take a 27-10 lead with 10:29 left in the third quarter.
Martinez made amends on NU's next drive, connecting with Kenny Bell on a 20-yard pass with a 15-yard UW personal foul tacked on at the end of the play. Bell finished with four catches for 57 yards on the night. On the next play, Martinez split the Badger defense and raced 38 yards up the middle to a touchdown to cut the lead back to 27-17 with 8:56 left in the third.
The Huskers built momentum with another defensive stop, as linebacker Sean Fisher threw Ball for a loss on 3rd-and-1 to force a another Badger punt. Martinez led Nebraska on another march, covering 75 yards in 10 plays capped by a 10-yard scoring strike to Reed on 3rd-and-4 to cut Wisconsin's edge to 27-24 with 3:47 left in the quarter.
The Memorial Stadium crowd roared to life for the Blackshirts on UW's ensuing possession, and the defense answered the bell again. NU forced a punt, and the Huskers raced back into scoring position, this time settling for a 38-yard Maher field goal to tie the score for the first time at 27 with 55 seconds left in the quarter.
Nebraska's winning drive covered 12 plays and 60 yards before Maher's 41-yard boot. The Huskers mounted one more promising drive that stalled in Wisconsin territory before the defense sealed the victory when Alonzo Whaley stripped the ball from Ball. Harvey Jackson recovered to lock up the victory and send the Husker faithful into a frenzy.
Whaley finished with a career-high eight tackles, including his first career sack and his first forced fumble. The recovery was also the first of Jackson's career. Will Compton led the Blackshirts with 10 tackles on the night, including an 11-yard sack and the first two breakups of his career.
Nebraska returns to Memorial Stadium to end a three-game home stand by opening Big Ten play against Wisconsin. Kickoff between the Huskers and Badgers is set for 7 p.m. with live television coverage on ABC.
Final: #22 Nebraska 30, Wisconsin 27
Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (WIS, 14-3)
WIS - 11:02 - Montee Ball 3 run (Jack Russell kick) - 5 plays, 71 yards, 2:30, WIS 7-0
WIS - 7:20 - Montee Ball 1 run (Russell kick) - 7 plays, 23 yards, 3:29, WIS 14-0
NEB - 5:29 - Brett Maher 26 FG - 4 plays, 4 yards, 1:39, WIS 14-3
Second Quarter (WIS, 20-10)
WIS - 11:50 - Jared Abbrederis 29 pass from Joel Stave (Russell kick failed) - 10 plays, 65 yards, 4:24, WIS 17-3
NEB - 3:11 - Rex Burkhead 3 pass from Taylor Martinez (Maher kick) - 12 plays, 93 yards, 5:13, WIS 20-10
Third Quarter (27-27)
WIS - 10:29 - Ball 2 run (French kick) - 4 plays, 13 yards, 1:17, WIS 27-10
NEB - 8:56 - Martinez 38 run (Maher kick) - 4 plays, 77 yards, 1:27, WIS 27-17
NEB - 3:47 - Kyler Reed 10 pass from Martinez (Maher kick) - 10 plays, 75 yards, 3:41, WIS 27-24
NEB - 0:55 - Maher 38 FG - 7 plays, 47 yards, 1:45, 27-27
Fourth Quarter (NEB, 30-27)
NEB - 9:41 - Maher 41 FG - 12 plays, 60 yards, 4:22, NEB 30-27
Final: #22 Nebraska 30, Wisconsin 27
Time of Game: 3:28
Game Start: 7:12 p.m. (central)
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini
"We made it hard on ourselves, but as a football team, we made a lot of mistakes in that game. We didn't play our best football, we didn't play nearly as well as we are capable of playing. But we got a 'W,' and we stayed the course as a football team. Our guys showed the character, the toughness, the perseverance to overcome not playing our best football. I'm proud of the group in there, but that's just one game. We'll enjoy it tonight and get back to work tomorrow."
On what he told his players before the final 4th-and-1
"It was 'be smart,' execute what we're asking them to do. I thought we did that in the second half. I thought we did some really good things in the first half defensively; we didn't make plays on balls down the field. Give them credit, they made some plays. In the end, we made more. The wheels didn't come off, as some of you would like to say."
On what he felt the turning point was for Nebraska
"You know what, it's a 60-minute game. There are none. There are momentum swings, there are always turning points in football games. You've got to stay the course, you've got to play every play and try and outlast it. It's a fist fight. It's not one play or one series or one quarter, you've got to stay the course. I thought our guys did that and we proved that today. No one panicked, everyone stayed together, kept making adjustments. It's a team game. It's the ultimate team game, ultimate team sport. Our football team did enough to win the football game, and I'm proud of them."
On the adjustments the staff made at halftime
"Not a lot. Just some small tweaks here and there. We just said, 'We've got to execute better,' and we did."
On if this reminded him of the 2011 Ohio State game
"Oh yeah. I said it. We've been in tougher positions than that before. The situation we were in, a lot of it was self-imposed. If we just fixed us--which I say all the time. I know you guys get sick of hearing it, but we've got to fix us. If we do our thing and we're not our own worst enemy--we did some things that were out of character for us in that first half. It could have cost us. It didn't. Down the road it will. We've got to get some things fixed; we've got to keep getting better. We did enough to win the football game tonight. I'm happy about that. I'll have joy tonight, but the way I'm wired, I'll go back and look at what we have to do to get better going forward."
On if he was proud of the team's response to physicality in the second half
"Yeah, I thought we answered the physical challenge all night. I think they're a physical football team. I think we showed we're very capable of being very physical on the ground, on both sides of the football."
On if he was proud of NU shutting down Wisconsin's rushing game
"Yeah. We did what we had to do. I'm concerned with some of the things we gave up in the passing game, especially in some situations where we were right there to make some plays. We had some tough calls as far as some interference things and that kind of thing. I thought we did some good things. Contrary to what you guys think, I haven't forgotten how to coach defense and how to stop the run."
On quarterback Taylor Martinez's performance
"I thought Taylor did some really good things. I thought he started slow and got better as the game went on. I thought he settled in and I thought he played a pretty good football game. Like I said, I think across the board: quarterbacks, running backs, offense, defense, special teams, we did a lot of good things and we did a lot of things that we need to get corrected. That's why you practice. I've said all along, it's going to be the team that keeps getting better week-to-week. That's the challenge we have in front of us. We're going to have a heck of a challenge for ourselves next week. We need to stay the course and keep concentrating on what we need to do to keep getting better as a football team."
On the performance of his linebacker corps
"I thought all three of them played very well. I'm proud of those guys. Let me tell you, when you're a linebacker, trust when I tell you, it starts up front. Our guys up front played their butts off. Our front seven did a lot of good things. The way we play, our secondary's got to fit in the run, too. I thought they did some really good things. It was a team effort stopping that run game. That football team knows how to run the football. Trust me."