LINCOLN, Neb. — A win over Wisconsin would have meant a lot for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. First, it would have put Nebraska’s season back on track after two nonconference losses, with one being an upset loss to Northern Illinois at home. And second, a win would have put Nebraska in the driver’s seat of the Big Ten West.
Yet, that didn’t happen. The Huskers instead lost, 38-17, to the Badgers under the lights of Memorial Stadium.
There were moments of hope. When Nebraska went into halftime down by only a touchdown, it felt like the Huskers could hang with the No. 9 Badgers. And when Nebraska safety Aaron Williams returned an interception 14 yards to tie the game in the third quarter, it started to feel like the Huskers could win the whole thing.
However, those scenarios didn’t end up playing out for Nebraska. The Huskers instead allowed another 21 points to Wisconsin in the second half, which pretty much sealed the deal. The reason? Nebraska struggled to finish plays, tackles, drives, you name it.
Finishing had been something coach Mike Riley stressed early in the week. Before the matchup, he told reporters how vital it was for his team’s success.
“The thing that is evident in the games against Wisconsin, is you have to be the team that finishes,” Riley said earlier in the week. “It’s really about finishing the game at a high level, being able to produce and make plays, offense and defense.”
So, what happened Saturday night? On offense, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf saw his group leave too many points on the field.
“We made some big plays, but we did not finish drives,” Langsdorf said after the game. “We had some good production, and then we weren’t finishing with points. That’s something we have to continue. … We’ve got to be able to finish with touchdowns, and that’s a big part of winning games. I think it’s a big emphasis. It’s continuing to work all the way on a long, sustained drive and the drive has to get better and better as the drives goes on.”
As for fixing those problems in practice, Langsdorf plans to continue working on sustaining focus, energy and detail all the way through. It’s important to carry those items for every player from the start to the finish of practice, as well through every drill they do. He notes the Huskers’ specific long drive work every Thursday, which will become an even bigger focus than before.
Sitting at 3-3 on the season and 2-1 in Big Ten play, Nebraska doesn’t control its own destiny in the Big Ten West anymore. Even if the Huskers won every game against its remaining Big Ten West foes, the team would still need Wisconsin to lose to be bumped into the top spot and earn a trip to Indianapolis.
The Huskers can’t control what the Badgers do now. What Nebraska can control is its opportunity to get to a bowl game. The Huskers may be in the passenger seat in the Big Ten, but they still control their own destiny with how the season finishes overall.
What ends up happening will rely on Nebraska’s ability to finish. Leaving points on the field won’t cut it going forward, especially against a team such as Ohio State.
It’s something center Michael Decker sees. It’s something quarterback Tanner Lee, running back Devine Ozigbo and offensive lineman Jerald Foster do, too. It came up in every one of their postgame comments.
Decker believes it needs to be a major goal for the Huskers going forward. His teammates seem to agree, especially when it comes to how Nebraska can finish the season.
“I think, overall, that testament to finishing is something we need to take for the rest of the year,” Decker said. “It’s something to motivate us for the next week and for every week after that.”