The margin of error for winning is pretty small in big-time college football. After a close loss last week against Iowa, Wisconsin was able to come away with a hard-fought 23-20 victory over Nebraska Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. For the Huskers, it was another heartbreaking loss, as all four of their losses have come on the last possession of the game.
However, heartbreak was almost all Wisconsin earned in Lincoln. After Nebraska scored on a Andy Janovich 52-yard touchdown run, the Badgers drove into field-goal range with 1:26 left in the game only to see Rafael Galianone's missed kick bounced off the right upright no good.
But Wisconsin's defense held and the Badgers were able to give Gaglianone a shot at redemption. He sent the second try through the uprights and Wisconsin escaped with a victory.
UW's offense struggled to move the ball consistently for much of the game. In the first half, the Badgers were 3-of-8 on third-down conversions and finished the game 5-of-16. However, they managed to make some big plays when it counted. Particularly in the fourth quarter, Stave led the Badgers on three different scoring drives and also had a fourth drive end in a missed Gaglianone field goal.
Joel Stave completed 24 of 50 passes for 322 yards and one touchdown, while Dare Ogunbowale added 118 yards on the ground and Alex Erickson finished with 113 yards receiving. That type of balanced offense was not even seen during the 2011 season with Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and Nick Toon.
Despite the big numbers, there is plenty of work to be done. While the box score shows no interceptions for Stave, he had several misplaced balls dropped by Nebraska defenders. Not to be outdone, Wisconsin receivers had several drops of their own, which show up in Stave's less sub-50 percent completion percentage.
After losing running back Taiwan Deal to an ankle injury in the first quarter, True freshman Alec Ingold -- who was recently moved from linebacker -- took over a lot of the short-yardage carries. Ingold impressed in his first action during meaningful game time, rarely going down on first contact and scoring his first career touchdown to give the Badgers a 17-14 lead to open the fourth quarter.
The Badgers were able to hold Nebraska's offense in check for much of the game. However, the Huskers were able to get several big plays, including a 42-yard touchdown pass right before halftime from Alonzo Moore. Moore was well covered by Sojourn Shelton, but Shelton was unable to track the ball and Moore made an outstanding catch for the score.
While neither team played particularly well, Wisconsin came out with the win. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong's ability to challenge Wisconsin's defense with the deep ball really opened up the field. The usually stout Badger defense was on the field for long stretches of time and eventually wore down.
Compounding the defensive hardship was the short field Nebraska's offense had to operate on. Punter Drew Meyer did not fare well dealing with the windy day at Memorial Stadium. His eight punts on the day averaged a meager 35 net yards.