What’s there to talk about?
The Nebraska football team, fresh off of a close loss to Ohio State, a bye week and incredible turnover on the offensive staff, played another heartbreaker decided within a single possession.
Next week, a few on this list will be playing their last game as a Husker, and for those on this list who need to do better Friday against Iowa will be their last chance to prove so.
Here’s three Nebraska football players who did well against the Badgers on Saturday:
Austin Allen, TE
Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez struggled mightily on Saturday but, as will be a running theme from the players who did well, his receivers picked up the slack and were the driving force behind the team’s offensive success.
Junior tight end Austin Allen was one of the most notable. Allen was Nebraska’s leading receiver on the night with 143 yards after seven catches on nine targets, the longest being a 38-yard reception.
The game against Wisconsin was also Allen’s highest-yardage outing of the season. Despite Martinez’s expected array of rather mismanaged passes, Allen made the most out of them, shaving some of Martinez’s blushes in the process.
Allen’s most important play came midway through the fourth quarter. Down seven, Nebraska had its backs to the wall on fourth down. After random bursts of offensive ineptitude on part of the playcalling, the team elected to have Martinez wheel out right into the gaping maw that is the Badgers’ defense.
Overwhelmingly, Nebraska goes for the quarterback draw on fourth-down looks so everybody, from the defensive line to the safeties, thought they knew what they were seeing when Martinez pulled right. Nobody paid attention to Allen, who snuck behind the crashing safeties, and safely came down with the ball under little duress in the redzone.
Allen has been one of Nebraska’s most reliable players this season, and it’d be hard to imagine any winning offensive game plan either this year or next, should he return, which doesn’t rely on him heavily, especially in the short-to-intermediate passing game. For the deep ball, on the other hand:
Samori Toure, WR
There’s a certain tragedy in senior wide receiver Samori Toure’s tenure with the Huskers.
Since transferring to the Huskers, Toure has been exceptional. On 33 receptions, the receiver had 718 yards and four touchdowns before Saturday’s game, serving the role of Martinez’s deep threat admirably, especially considering Martinez’s accuracy issues.
At the same time, the receiver will play his last game for the Huskers next Friday against Iowa. After only a year with Nebraska, Toure proved himself to be one of the team’s most important pieces, and gave further evidence of that against Wisconsin.
Where Allen was the leading receiver against the Badgers, Toure was second with 113 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.
“We went into the game knowing that we were going to take shots, take shots, take shots,” Toure said postgame. “It just comes down to finishing drives and making the plays that we need in crunch time moments.”
Toure, like Allen, will be crucial in accomplishing that against the Hawkeyes.
Garrett Nelson, LB
In truth, it’s hard to give too much kudos to any part of the defense from Saturday, after all it allowed the efficient-but-unspectacular sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz go 12-for-18 with 145 yards and a touchdown, and that’s not even mentioning the incredible performance of freshman running back Braelon Allen.
But, if any player deserves special recognition, it’d likely be sophomore linebacker Garrett Nelson, who had six tackles, two solo and a sack against the Badgers. Nelson also managed a rather nice pass deflection during the game.
Nelson has taken a step forward since his 2020 campaign, with more production in all key statistics across the board, and will likely be a key component for the Huskers in the future.
Here’s two Nebraska players who need to do better following the loss:
Adrian Martinez, QB
Martinez may very well have one game left as a Husker, depending on how things shape out. If he wants it to be a good sendoff, he’ll have to play better than he did against Wisconsin.
Overall, it was a rather typical performance for Martinez. His problems in the short-to-intermediate plagued him throughout the night and even his reliable deep ball became compromised.
To an extent, the responsibility for the first interception is variable. Junior wide receiver Oliver Martin may’ve not quite been wary to the pass, and regardless he was just beaten on it by the Wisconsin defense, so one could assign blame to either party there.
The second interception, on the other hand, had no such reprieve.
Only a couple minutes into the fourth quarter, Martinez dropped back in the pocket and found himself with time. Though the offensive line remains categorically shaky, a couple of Wisconsin players tripped and gave Martinez an extra second or so.
Under no pressure, Martinez whipped the deep ball rather directly to the Wisconsin player, a play so bewildering Frost suggested in the postgame press conference afterwards that Martinez may’ve hurt his shoulder on that play.
While Martinez needs to do better, he needs help, as well.
Turner Corcoran, OL
It’s easy to sympathize with freshman offensive lineman Turner Corcoran.
Cocoran replaced Brenden Jaimes, a three-year starter at left tackle, and so Corcoran always looked out of his depth in the coveted blindside tackle spot. And, when compatriot freshman offensive lineman Teddy Prochazka stepped into that role, Corcoran looked rather competent out on the right side of the line.
Unfortunately, Prochazka’s injury forced Corcoran back into one of the most important spots on the line, and he’s been poor since then.
While any offensive lineman sans sophomore center Cam Jurgens may fit the bill on this list, Corcoran gave up a pair of backbreaking holding penalties and the unit overall allowed five hurries to the Badgers.
Though Martinez was never sacked, this came down more to his improvisational flair than the work of the line itself.
Iowa has one of the most fearsome defenses in the country, and a competent line performance will be necessary next Friday.