Loss at Wisconsin drops Huskers to 0-5
MADISON, Wisc. — Nebraska failed, time and time again, to get out of its own way Saturday and fell to No. 16 Wisconsin, 41-24.
Nebraska’s 0-5 record is tied for the worst start to a season in the program’s 129-year history.
The game, like most of Nebraska’s this year, was a constant stream of self-inflicted damage. False starts to stall drives, blocks in the back in the red zone, holding calls to offset targeting penalties, pass interference calls to extend Wisconsin drives, fumbles, special teams blunders leading to a benched punter and wide, gaping holes for Badgers to run through.
Wisconsin possessed the ball for nearly an entire quarter more than Nebraska. Wisconsin barely outgained Nebraska 533 to 513, and both teams converted 26 first downs. But the Huskers were flagged 10 times for 100 yards.
True freshman Adrian Martinez finished the game 24 for 42 for 384 yards and two touchdowns. He was Nebraska’s leading rusher with 57 yards and a score. Sophomore receiver JD Spielman set the school record with 209 receiving yards. Stanley Morgan caught eight passes for 93 yards.
Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, the leading rusher in the nation, ran 24 times for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was 13 for 24 for 163 yards and a touchdown.
Nebraska went into halftime down 20-3.
On the second play of the second half, it looked like a comeback was possible. Martinez found Spielman on a quick slant that went for 75 yards to close the gap to 20-10.
On Wisconsin’s ensuing possession, NU defensive end Carlos Davis got two hands on Hornibrook on third-and-7, but Hornibrook escaped and completed a pass to keep the drive alive. Taylor scored a few plays later to make it 27-10.
Martinez fumbled on Nebraska’s next possession. Wisconsin running back Taiwan Deal scored from 20 yards out, and the game was essentially over from there.
Wisconsin has now won six straight games against Nebraska. The Huskers have now lost nine straight games dating back to last season.
Wisconsin got the ball first and while they ate up half the first quarter clock, had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone. Nebraska came out firing with a 12-yard strike from Martinez to Morgan on the first play. A false start penalty on Boe Wilson on first-and-10 bumped Nebraska back five yards, and the Huskers couldn’t get past a third-and-8.
Nebraska’s defense held the Badgers in the red zone again, this time early in the second quarter. Taylor was stuffed on second-and-7 at the line of scrimmage, and safety Aaron Williams had a pass breakup in the end zone. Wisconsin was forced again to kick a field goal, which Gaglianone made from 29 yards to make it 6-0.
A third-and-16 pass from Martinez to a wide-open Morgan put Nebraska into scoring range on its next possession. A 31-yard field goal by Barret Pickering slithered in to make it 6-3 with 9:55 left in the first.
Punter Caleb Lightbourn saved the ensuing kickoff return from a touchdown by just barely snagging the shoe of returner Aron Cruickshank. The save ultimately didn’t matter. At that point, Wisconsin’s offense had possessed the ball for almost a full quarter, and it was weighing on the Husker defense. Hornibrook completed passes of 16 and 26 yards to lead a Wisconsin drive down to the 3-yard line. Taylor ran in for his first score of the day to extend the Wisconsin lead to 13-3.
Before the half, Nebraska drove all the way to the Wisconsin 18, but two straight penalties — a block in the back and an illegal hands to the face — bumped Nebraska back behind the 50. The Huskers fought back to the Wisconsin 37, but a fourth-and-14 pass from Martinez fell incomplete.
Wisconsin cashed their next possession in with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hornibrook to tight end Jake Ferguson to make it 20-3 before the half.
After the Spielman touchdown and ensuing 14 straight points by Wisconsin, Martinez found Jack Stoll on a scrambling toss to the end zone. The sophomore tight end snagged the pass away from a Wisconsin defender to make it 34-17 with 4:20 left in the third.
Taylor broke off an 88-yard touchdown run early in the fourth to bury Nebraska 41-17.
Martinez continued to impress late in the game, finishing off a drive midway through the fourth quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Nebraska’s next game is at Northwestern, which upset ranked Michigan State on Saturday.