Badger Bits: Unpacking Wisconsin's Loss to Nebraska

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

After a dismal second half against Nebraska, there is no telling where Wisconsin will go with rest of the conference schedule to play. One thing is for certain: swift improvement is needed.

For a three-point loss, this game sure felt like a spanking. In the second half, it was, as Nebraska outscored Wisconsin 20-0 within the final 24 minutes of the game. The Badgers' lone score of the second half was set up when David Gilbert sacked Taylor Martinez to cause a fumble and give Wisconsin the ball on Nebraska's 13-yard line. Wisconsin managed 108 total yards of offense in the second half to 322 for Nebraska, which counts as a certified trouncing when prorated over 60 minutes.

Mike said that this one hurts and Hillary Lee agreed over at OTE. I third the notion, with the addendum that there is some solace in how the team played in the first half. The offense made it look 2011 levels of easy at times, going 71 yards on its opening possession to take a 7-0 lead. Less than four minutes later, the score was 14-0 thanks to another short field set up by a Rex Burkhead fumble. The defense played very well until late in the half, holding the Cornhuskers without a first down on four of their first five possessions. So why did things go sour in the second half?

Nebraska is a good team and Lincoln is a difficult place to play, but that won't stem the tide of due criticism drowning the coaching staff since the game ended. The playbook seemed to shrink significantly after halftime. The offense didn't put Melvin Gordon on the field, much less fake the sweep that had been effective for one-and-a-half games, drawing defenders out of the box to give Montee Ball room to run up the middle. The defense was all too content to rush four lineman and leave the middle of the field open for Martinez, giving the quarterback all the time he needed to decide whether he wanted to run or pass for 20 yards and the first down. It was nauseating to watch -- "The Guillotine" on Bill Simmons' levels of losing -- and the fact that both teams appeared to be wearing pajamas didn't help matters.

Wisconsin really needs to thump Illinois this weekend. The Badgers have yet to have a truly confidence-boosting game, even if they have been taking step forward the last two weeks. The Illini have been a sad squad this season, but the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this year's Wisconsin team makes all outcomes possible. Hopefully, we'll get used to it.

Links

Saturday's game was the fourth time the Badgers have blown a double-digit lead under Bret Bielema.

Joel Stave staying tough and other notes from the Journal Sentinel.

About Stave getting yanked for Danny O'Brien:

Bielema went to junior Danny O'Brien on the final series in a 2-minute situation. It was a decision Bielema made prior to the game with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, based on O'Brien performing well in those situations in practices.

"It's been impressive for me, even going to the first game Joel started, in discussions with Matt, if we got ourselves into a true 2-minute situation, that Danny was going to be the guy," Bielema said.

React to that however you will. Also, more on the fourth-down boondoggle:

O'Brien said the confusion because of the look he got from the defense. He saw the cornerback and the safety to the outside, so he didn't think he could run the bootleg.

"The confusion was whether it was an automatic keep, or the option to keep," O'Brien said. "I think we saw a few times earlier in the game, they were crashing down on it. ... I just saw the corner and a safety wide, looking at me. I thought we were going to run the run."

Again, react how you will. I've used up my stockpile of emotions.

Looks like Jack Russell lost out the starting kicking job to Kyle French after missing a field goal and an extra point.

Badgers Roundtable is back to help you figure out how to feel about sports and stuff.

Badgers slated for the Meineke Car Care Bowl by Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett at the ESPN blog.

Urban Meyer doing big meanie things again.

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