Nebraska fell to Wisconsin on the road Saturday for its first loss of the season.
The Huskers couldn’t score in the final minute of regulation, and couldn’t stop Wisconsin in overtime and couldn’t do hardly anything when they got the ball in overtime.
Here’s how we grade the Nebraska performance in the 23-17 overtime loss, based on a scale from one star to five:
Nebraska offense (3.5 stars)
Nebraska just didn’t seem to find a rhythm on Saturday. Senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong was 12-for-31 for 153 yards and two interceptions, and though senior RB Terrell Newby averaged 4.5 yards per rush, Nebraska just didn’t seem to be able to break the Wisconsin defense.
The general trend in the past for Nebraska has been to chip away just enough to break through in the fourth quarter. And though the Huskers did score 10 points in the fourth, they couldn’t score from midfield in the final minute, and then only gained two yards in overtime. They couldn’t quite break the Wisconsin defense.
So it was a fine, but not great, performance at best.
Nebraska defense (3.5 stars)
For a while, the Blackshirts really looked like they were going to keep the Wisconsin rushing attack at bay. But Wisconsin actually did to Nebraska what the Huskers have done to opponents in the past. Bit by bit, they broke down the Nebraska rush defense. In the first three quarters, Nebraska kept Wisconsin’s running backs to around four yards per carry.
In the fourth quarter and overtime, Dare Ogunbowale and Corey Clement broke through. Ogunbowale ended up with 120 yards and averaged 10.9 yards per carry, and Clement finished with 19 carries for 82 yards. Wisconsin had with 223 yards on 38 carries for 5.9 yards per carry.
Yes, Nebraska held Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston to 14-for-23 passing for 114 yards and two interceptions but with Wisconsin, the rushing attack is what’s important. And in that, Nebraska failed.
Special teams (4.5 stars)
For the second straight week, Nebraska’s special teams showed up. Freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn averaged 41.6 yards per punt and kicker Drew Brown nailed a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Punter returner De’Mornay Pierson-El had four returns for 36 yards, which put Nebraska in scoring territory a few times. In the field position game, Nebraska really did a great job.
Coaching (4 stars)
Play calling is 100 percent hindsight. But looking through the fourth quarter, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and coach Mike Riley will probably want a few play-calls back, particularly in overtime.
There is no perfect play-call, but Nebraska’s two runs up the middle in overtime went for three yards, and a loss of one, and put Nebraska in a tricky third-and-8 and a near-impossible fourth-and-8.
In general, Langsdorf and Riley called a good game, but when it got late, things got questionable.
Overall (3.5 stars)
Nebraska proved it can play with the top dogs in the conference. But at the same time, they proved they’re not quite a top dog yet. The Huskers have grown exponentially over the past 12 months, but there were plenty of times on Saturday they should have taken over, including on the final drive in the fourth quarter with a chance to win, and in overtime, when they also had a chance to win it with a touchdown and PAT.
That didn’t happen, so now the Huskers have fallen from the ranks of the unbeaten. Nebraska played well for the circumstance, but didn’t play well enough to quiet critics and steal a victory.