No. 8 Nebraska falls to No. 7 Wisconsin 48-17
Big Red wasn't quite ready for the best of the Big Ten.
Neither was Taylor Martinez.
Martinez threw three interceptions and No. 8 Nebraska failed in a tough first test in its new conference, getting routed by No. 7 Wisconsin 48-17 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday night.
''We didn't make plays,'' Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ''I'm embarrassed. I apologize to the fans of Nebraska.''
Martinez was 11 of 22 for 176 yards, and his big mistakes wiped out some of the momentum Nebraska (4-1, 0-1) built early on. Martinez wasn't much of a threat in the running game, either.
Martinez said he had a hard time making the right read.
''I need to dump it off to the back and know when not to throw it (downfield),'' Martinez said.
And the Huskers' defense struggled to stop Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
Montee Ball ran for 151 yards and four touchdowns for the Badgers (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten). But Wilson was the main attraction for a primetime audience as Wisconsin overcame a slow start to solidify its status as the class of the conference.
Rex Burkhead had 18 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown for the Huskers.
''We need some guys to step up and man up and start playing football,'' Pelini said. ''A lot of those things that happened out there today weren't any different. We need to get it fixed. We haven't fixed this. We've got to get it fixed.''
By the time the Camp Randall Stadium public address system blared ''Jump Around'' to get fans hopping before the fourth quarter, the game already was in the bag for the Badgers.
It was the sixth meeting between the teams and the first since 1974, but clearly the biggest and one of the most anticipated games in recent memory for Wisconsin. The Badgers fans didn't exactly have Camp Randall to themselves.
The crowd of 81,384 was filled with plenty of Nebraska fans - they wore black to differentiate themselves from Wisconsin fans who wear a similar shade of red - amid reports earlier in the week that thousands of fans were expected to make the trip to Madison this weekend for the Huskers' first conference game as a member of the Big Ten.
The Badgers sent them home disappointed, but the two teams could be on track to meet again.
Wisconsin is in the Leaders division of the Big Ten and Nebraska is in the Legends division, meaning the two teams could play in the conference championship game.
It was another big step for Wilson, the former North Carolina State quarterback who gave up minor league baseball to return to college football and play for a Badgers team that seemed to have all the pieces of a BCS bowl contender but needed a quarterback.
Five games into the season, there's no reason to think otherwise.
Wilson had played well in his first four games for the Badgers after joining them over the summer, but hadn't yet been tested by a top-level opponent since his days with the Wolfpack.
And Wilson found himself under pressure early, especially by standout Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick. But then Wilson started showing his ability to scramble out of trouble and extend plays - and Nebraska's defense couldn't keep up.
Wisconsin's defense also appeared to be in for a long night, allowing a pair of early - and easy - touchdown drives to Martinez and the Huskers that put the Badgers behind 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Wilson answered with a drive, and Ball scored his second touchdown of the day. The extra point try was blocked by Crick, and Nebraska still led 14-13.
Later in the quarter, Wisconsin's defense picked off Martinez on two straight possessions, the first by linebacker Mike Taylor and the second by safety Aaron Henry.
Wilson made the Huskers pay for both turnovers, firing a 36-yard touchdown to Jared Abbrederis, then a 46-yard touchdown to Nick Toon with 0:32 left. Nebraska missed a 50-yard field goal try near the end of the second quarter, and Wisconsin took a 27-14 lead into halftime.
Martinez then threw another interception on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, this time to cornerback Antonio Fenelus.
Wilson helped the Badgers cash in again, this time with his legs. On first-and-goal at the 10, Wilson faked a handoff and took off running, leaving the Huskers' defense in his dust on a touchdown run. Wisconsin took a 34-14 lead, effectively ending the game early in the third quarter.