After a disappointing performance against Purdue where it squandered multiple opportunities to put the game out of reach, the Nebraska offense used its second bye week of the year to rest and regroup. It was also an opportunity to get ready for the physical test presented by the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers as the starting offensive line and defensive line battled against each other in practice.
The Badgers pose a tough challenge for the Husker offensive line, as they rank fifth in the nation in sacks.
“There’s really no tricks about it, they’re good,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Troy Walters said.
Walters said the quality of the Badger pass rush allows them to rush four defenders and rely on them to win one-on-one matchups, rather than needing to blitz to generate pressure.
For offensive line coach Greg Austin, he said the ability to double-team on the interior could help a Husker offensive line which has struggled in recent weeks, particularly against Minnesota.
“As the season has progressed, the pass protection has gotten better and better,” Austin said.
For the entire offense, the focus this week is on efficiency. While the Huskers typically use a high-tempo, no-huddle offense to wear down opponents, the strategy may shift a little this week due to Wisconsin’s offense, which keeps the ball for long periods of time, limiting the amount of offensive snaps Nebraska will have.
“We’ve got to maximize those plays, we’ve got to be efficient and we can’t have turnovers and penalties or else it’s going to be a long day,” Walters said.
After settling for two field goals within the 10-yard line against Purdue, it’s all about touchdowns this week. The limited number of offensive possessions means Nebraska will need to capitalize on its red zone trips in order to knock off the Badgers. While changing the tempo is important to this goal, the most important thing for Walters is scoring by any means necessary,
“We’re going to be smart as a staff and mix things up in terms of our tempo,” he said. “Ultimately, we’ve got to score.”
Part of the puzzle for the Husker offense will be getting sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez back to his full potential. Walters said Martinez is back to 100 percent healthy and had a good week of practice, mentioning the Huskers will need him to make plays with his legs against the Badgers. Last year, Martinez was Nebraska’s leading rusher with 13 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown in Madison.
“We’re going to need him to utilize his legs because things are going to break down, they’ve got great pass rushers,” Walters said.
While Martinez is now fully healthy, an area of concern for the Husker offense is the health of freshman all-purpose back Wan’Dale Robinson. Robinson hasn’t been fully healthy in the past few weeks and didn’t suit up for last Wednesday’s practice. As of right now, Walters called Robinson’s status a game-time decision.
Either way, the Badgers will be a tough test for the Nebraska offense, one which Walters feels his team is prepared for.
“The guys are hungry and ready for a great Wisconsin team, a top-20 ranked team coming to our place,” Walters said. “They’ll have a great crowd and a great opportunity to do something special.”