December 21 and the earth’s destruction couldn’t come faster for Husker fans.
I reported from afar on Saturday and by afar I mean inside my own living room, with my computer on my lap and about five friends, all Husker fans, watching with me. As the game unfolded, I heard everything from, “This is b#@#$!” to “We’re terrible!” to “Fire Bo!”
Looking at the world of social media, it seemed like the sky was falling; every Facebook status or tweet was a Nebraska fan saying something along the lines of “This is the worst game in Nebraska football history.”
The outcome of the game was just as baffling to me as the rest of Husker nation. How could a team win six in a row, come out and lay a massive egg in the biggest game of the year?
So, after thinking about that question after the game, I came up with three main reasons why the Huskers fell apart in Indianapolis.
1. The lack of team speed on defense.
Wisconsin completely exposed how slow Nebraska’s three starting linebackers are.
To start the game, the Badgers opted to run outside. They used odd shifts before the snap to confuse the Husker defense, especially the linebackers. Then Wisconsin ran jet sweeps and tosses, which completely dismantled Nebraska’s defense.
The linebackers couldn’t get to the edge because Wisconsin’s running backs were just that much faster than them.
Credit the Badger coaching staff. They knew their team struggled to run between the tackles in the first game against Nebraska. Wisconsin’s play calling led to 539 yards rushing. Yeah, you read that right, more than 500 yards on the ground.
2. Nebraska couldn’t catch A break.
Let’s be honest, Nebraska was the luckiest team in the mediocre Big Ten this season. Denard Robinson’s injury, the pass interference call against Michigan State and the Penn State fumble on the goal line, all contributed to Nebraska wins. And you don’t comeback from double-digit deficits four times without catching a break here and there.
Saturday night was a different story. The Huskers didn’t get a holding call on the opening Badger touchdown. Kenny Bell tipped a pass right to a Wisconsin defender who returned it for a touchdown on NU’s first drive on offense. Bell got called for a personal foul on a completely legal block.
Sometimes, when things aren’t going right, they snowball. That’s what happened Saturday.
3. No leadership in the trenches.
I didn’t think the injuries to Justin Jackson and Baker Steinkuhler were going to affect Saturday’s game. Boy, was I wrong.
The lack of Jackson was especially felt on third and longs, when Wisconsin brought exotic blitzes that confused backup centers Mark Pelini and Cole Pensick.
The center needs to make the calls on the line and without Jackson’s experience, the Huskers struggled to protect quarterback Taylor Martinez. The Husker starting quarterback was sacked five times in the game.
The statistics speak for themselves when it comes to Steinkuhler’s absence. Wisconsin had three rushers with more than 100 yards, including 202 yards from Montee Ball and 216 from Melvin Gordon.
There were massive holes in the defense and the Nebraska defensive line was getting pushed three to five yards back every play it seemed. Steinkuhler has been stout all year in the middle of that line. I wonder how big of a difference he would have made on Saturday.
These are just some of the reasons contributing to Nebraska’s loss, but the bottom line is, the Huskers got completely outplayed and outcoached in this one.
There is going to be a lot to fix before the bowl game. And a lot of grumbling this offseason from Husker nation.
Andrew Ward is a junior broadcasting major. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.