clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Wisconsin vs. Nebraska: B5Q writers break down Joel Stave's performance, Badgers' resilient win

New, 41 comments

A last look at one of Wisconsin's more memorable road wins, plus a preview of Purdue.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers (4-2, 1-1) stayed in the race for the Big Ten West division with their 23-21 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-4, 1-1) in Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday.

The running game came alive for the Badgers in the fourth quarter, as in the second half four of their final five drives ended with points. The defense played well, holding Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. to only 11-of-28 passing for 129 yards -- though they gave up two huge plays in Armstrong's 41-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Alonzo Moore and fullback Andy Janovich's barelling 55-yard touchdown run that almost cost them the game.

Our writers Neal Olson and Jon Arens broke down the win.

The Good: What went well for the Badgers in Lincoln?

Neal Olson: Honestly, this was such a disjointed performance I'm not sure if anything really stands out. Despite Joel Stave, Dare Ogunbawale and Alex Erickson becoming the first trio of Badgers to tally 300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game since 2006, I was never left feeling like the offense had finally turned a corner from the inconsistent play from last week against Iowa.

Wait, this is the what went well section of the recap?! Whoops! The Badgers did manage to move the ball effectively at times, as obvious by the yardage totals. Stave organized three(!) fourth quarter scoring drives and would have had four if not for a missed Rafael Gaglianone field goal. At this point in the season, it is clear the Badgers will need to rely on Stave to win games. Fresh off a four turnover game against Iowa, Stave was turnover free in a hostile road game. His resiliency was a pleasant surprise and perhaps an indication the ‘all is lost' mentality after last week was a bit hasty.

Jon Arens: As Neal said, this was largely a disjointed performance. Stave got the Badgers into field goal range, but also threw many passes that should have been picked if the opponent was not one of the worst pass defenses in college football. Gaglianone won the game, but missed two field goals. McEvoy had two great pass break ups, but dropped two consecutive targets as a wide receiver. But you know what? This sort of win, a true road victory over a quality opponent, is about as rare as they get for the Wisconsin Badgers. Since 2006, there have been less than five such wins. By my count, this is best road win for the Badgers since 2013 at Iowa. The only other great road wins were 2006 at Iowa, 2010 at Iowa, and (maybe) 2010 at Michigan. Yes, both 2015 versions of Nebraska and Wisconsin are limited, and neither were ranked, but this is probably a top three road win for the program since Bielema took over.

The Bad: What still needs cleaning up after the Nebraska game?

Neal: Once again there was major that stood out as negative. Sure there were a few mis-judged balls in the air by the defensive backs but Nebraska's receivers deserve some credit there. Instead I'll pick on the impossible to control injury bug.

Not only did Taiwan Deal miss most of the game with an ankle injury but Dan Voltz went down on the Badgers second to last offensive play with an undisclosed injury as well. No word from head coach Paul Chryst on the severity of either, but running back and offensive line are two positions already short on depth due to injuries. Extended missed playing time for either player will be another obstacle for this team to overcome.

Jon: Gaglianone was not the only Badger to have an up and down day in Lincoln. Troy Fumagalli, had perhaps his best game as a Badger, securing both a key late touchdown as well as a 23 yard strike to set up the winning field goal. However, that big game could have been much bigger had the young tight end fought through contact on several routes he was targeted on. I was not the only person (Hey Tom Oates!) to notice that Fumagali has a bad habit of giving up on routes after he feels that he has been interfered with. While this is likely his youth showing, Fumagalli needs to make a better effort in situations like that, not only because he is a huge human who will occasionally overcome that contact, but because the ref is far more likely to throw a flag after a play where the offensive player is obviously struggling against a foul.

Team MVP: Who deserves the honors for their performance Saturday?

Neal: Perhaps no player has ever gone from goat (not G.O.A.T. mind you) to hero as quickly as Gaglianone did against Nebraska. Gaglianone has struggled hitting only 9-of-15 field goals on the season. But he is more than deserving of MVP for the game winner. Especially considering he had just missed a game winner less than three minutes earlier. With any luck that confidence will spill over to the entire team going forward.

Jon: Stave has certainly not lit the world on fire since Big Ten play has begun, but he remains the best offensive weapon the Badgers have going forward this season. Several interceptions were dropped by the Nebraska secondary, which makes his statistical performance look better than what we all saw in the game. Regardless, there have been precious few good road wins in the post Barry era, and this qualifies as one of them. Joel gets the MVP

Who's next? Purdue: What do you want to see the Badgers do against the Boilermakers?

Neal: This is a tricky proposition. Purdue has shown little this season to change the opinion they are one of the worst teams in the Big Ten. Expectations will be high for the Badgers to win comfortably, especially since the game is at Camp Randall. However, the Badgers do not need to set the world on fire with offensive fireworks in the one. Stave needs to continue building a rapport with receivers other than Erickson or Fumagali.

Jazz Peavy and Rob Wheelwright have both shown flashes of being capable but have lacked consistency week-to-week. Purdue should offer the opportunity to start stringing some plus performances together. The season is just at the halfway mark. Plenty of time for a relatively young, unproven offense to start showing making strides.

Jon: Fumagalli needs to keep building on the progress he made this week. Chryst has a legion of former tight ends in the NFL for a reason, and Troy needs to develop into that sort of weapon for Wisconsin to take the pressure off of Erikson, who is probably one of the most underrated and important position players in the Big Ten at this point (which is crazy). Wisconsin needs to control the game clock against a mediocre Purdue team that is probably somewhat emboldened by a respectable showing against a stacked MSU team. Bottom line, you don't lose on homecoming, and if you do lose on homecoming, it cannot be to Purdue. Unleash Joe the Show, and make your field goals.