No. 16 Wisconsin’s run game wears down Nebraska in 41-24 win
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Having to face Jonathan Taylor in the fourth quarter almost seems unfair for a weary defense.
Good luck stopping him once he gets going.
Taylor ran for 221 yards and three scores, including a career-best 88-yarder in the fourth, and No. 16 Wisconsin’s punishing ground game wore down winless Nebraska in a 41-24 victory Saturday night.
“I was looking at the offensive linemen to see if they were going to jog him down,” quarterback Alex Hornibrook said about his vantage point of the run following the handoff. “I was pumped up and going to celebrate him.”
Taylor had a big head start on his long touchdown run that gave Wisconsin a 41-17 lead with 12:50 left.
A dominating night from his offensive line early in the game helped pave the way late for the Badgers (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten).
“We just had to clean some things up and get everybody on the same page,” right guard Beau Benzchawel said. “We knew that if we did that – get everybody where they needed to be, we’d make big plays.”
Nebraska also flashed big-play promise behind freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez, who threw for a career-high 384 yards and rushed for a score. JD Spielman had nine catches for a school-record 209 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown catch.
It still wasn’t enough to prevent the Cornhuskers (0-5, 0-3) from losing their ninth straight game, extending a program record.
Just too many mistakes to keep up with the disciplined Badgers.
Nebraska was flagged 10 times for 100 yards. Martinez fumbled in the third quarter, a turnover that Wisconsin cashed in for a 20-yard touchdown run from Taiwan Deal for a 24-point lead with 6:50 left in the third quarter.
“You can’t let a team like this get out in front of you because they’re going to keep pounding you and pounding you,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said.
Nebraska: There is potential on offense with Martinez’s athleticism and ability to throw down field. In his third start, he seemed to be more at ease after halftime with the Cornhuskers trying to comeback. He appeared to be tentative at times in the first half while under pressure. And a season-long problem with penalties must be addressed.
“We’re playing an 18-year-old quarterback, and he’s doing a great job. He’s going to be a special player,” Frost said. “There were a couple of plays in the first half where he threw to the wrong side or his eyes were in the wrong place.
Wisconsin: The young secondary banged up at cornerback coming into the game took two more hits after cornerback Deron Harrell left with a head injury in the second quarter. Safety Scott Nelson was then ejected for targeting late in the third quarter, meaning he will miss the first half of next week’s prime-time matchup on the road at No. 15 Michigan. Backup safety Eric Burrell, along with freshmen cornerbacks Rachad Wildgoose and Donte Burton may have to get up to speed quickly. Wisconsin also had chances for at least three interceptions but errant passes bounced off the hands of defenders.
AIRING IT OUT
Martinez finished 24-of-42 passing with three scores, adding 57 yards on the ground on 13 carries.
“We didn’t get to him as much as we’d like,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “We did what he had to do to win so overall it was a good game.”
The Cornhuskers kept attacking Wisconsin’s depleted secondary. Martinez found Jack Stoll for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 4:20 left in the third to get back within 17.
Nebraska was driving again early in the fourth quarter with a chance to cut into the lead.
Edwards, a preseason All-American, finally put a stop to their comeback hopes with his second sack of the night on third-and-14 to force a punt.
Taylor had his 88-yard score on the next play from scrimmage.
“I don’t like playing from behind. We’ve done that too much this year,” Martinez said.
Taylor finished with 24 carries. Hornibrook was 13 of 24 for 163 yards and a score. …. Nebraska receiver Stanley Morgan had eight catches for 93 yards.
The Badgers could go up a couple spots in the next AP poll after three upsets ahead of them in the Top 25.
Nebraska: Visits Northwestern on Oct. 13.
Wisconsin: Plays third consecutive night game, at No. 15 Michigan on Oct. 13.