MADISON — Well, that was fun, right? RIGHT!?
The Wisconsin Badgers were able to edge by the No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers in primetime at home in overtime 23-17. Though the Badgers have struggled to close out some close games thus far this season, they wouldn’t be denied in their second ESPN night game of the season. Again facing a top-seven team, the Badgers were able to lean on a couple veteran players who don’t always get the appreciation they deserve.
Dare Ogunbowale picks up slack in the running game
In a game where it was pretty clear that stopping Corey Clement and the Badgers’ rushing attack was of utmost importance, it was fifth-year senior Dare Ogunbowale who was able to gash the Nebraska defense for some big gains, and ultimately the most important one, an 11-yard scamper into the end zone during overtime that sealed the victory the Badgers.
In all, Ogunbowale rushed 11 times for 120 yards and the touchdown. In the opening drive of the second half, he rushed four times for 40 yards, and gains of 17 and 15 put the offense in the red zone. Alex Hornibrook was the able to find Robert Wheelwright for a touchdown which at the time put the Badgers up 10 points.
Redshirt freshman Bradrick Shaw, who also had a rushing touchdown, said this about his senior position mate: “It’s great watching Dare. Team leader, excellent running back, and when he is doing good, the team does too.”
In a game where Clement was effectively shut down with the exception of one run, Ogunbowale was able to pick up the slack and give the Badgers a different element. A feature back a year ago due to injuries, Ogunbowale gouged the Cornhuskers’ defense, mostly out of shotgun. Draw plays and sweeps to the outside did most of the damage for Ogunbowale.
When asked what makes Dare special, sophomore center Michael Deiter said: “Not only his leadership and all that stuff, but the way he can make people miss. When he gets out in space, he’s pretty lethal.” Left tackle Ryan Ramczyk also said: “It’s definitely a confidence boost when you see him running downfield.”
Ogunbowale spoke on scoring the game-winning touchdown: “It was big. We have guys playing tough all season and coming up short in situations obviously that we don’t want to and for us to get that, win a close game like that for 60-plus minutes, was awesome.”
Leon Jacobs comes up huge for the defense
Leon Jacobs started 2015 as a starting inside linebacker for the Badgers. He was ejected from the third game of the year for targeting, and was lost for the season due to a foot injury in game four. Then he was moved to fullback for spring ball, a position he played until early this season when he was moved back to inside linebacker after the depth that was plentiful and allowed the coaching staff to move him had been depleted.
When asked about it, he said: “Yeah, there was [some apprehension], to switching again. I put everything into linebacker, then I was moved. Then I invested everything into playing fullback. So it was tough to move back again.”
Leon Jacobs had 11 tackles against Nebraska, tied for the team lead with fellow reserve inside linebacker Ryan Connelly.
His athleticism pops out immediately when watching him play. A prep running back, he was recruited to Penn State to play that position, but instead chose Madison, where they decided to play him at linebacker.
Jacobs was vital in stopping the rushing attack of Tommy Armstrong Jr., a dual-threat quarterback who had a long rushing touchdown called back against the Badgers in 2015 during their contest in Lincoln. His athleticism allowed him to play Nebraska’s option from the inside out, which forced Armstrong to give the ball, rendering him unable to hurt the Badgers to his full potential with his legs.
Paul Chryst paid a very flattering compliment to Jacobs during the post-game press conference: “I think Leon’s another great example of a guy that will do anything he can to help this team. Whether it was going to fullback and then going back to linebacker... I think he is an example of this group and that they will do anything they can to help this team be the best it can be.”
Tommy Armstrong Jr. held in check
One of the first things you’ll notice when watching the Nebraska offense is that Armstrong doesn’t fit. Recruited to Bo Pelini’s option-based rushing attack, he’s now in his second year of operating Mike Riley’s pro-style scheme.
Despite stretches of maddening inconsistency for Nebraska fans, he’s still their most lethal offensive weapon. Armstrong is truly a dual threat for the Huskers, as he entered the game with 380 rushing yards, along with his passing ability. He was held to 39 yards on 13 carries, with only a long of 10 yards.
“All 11 guys on defense have a job, and when they all do that job, that’s how we’re able to hold guys,” Jacobs said.
Armstrong, while rarely confused with a precise passer, struggled against the Badgers’ stifling defense. His final stat line was 12-of-31 for 153 yards and two interceptions, but 10 pass breakups, including two from D’Cota Dixon in overtime, kept Armstrong from connecting on more passes. In the first quarter, Armstrong was intercepted by Sojourn Shelton off of a deflected pass. Armstrong’s diminutive stature hurt him while in the pocket against Wisconsin, as he had four passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
The Badgers’ ability to keep Armstrong from hurting them with his legs played to their game plan of defending the pass.
“He was going to throw the ball up and give us a chance to make plays,” said Dixon, who had one interception and nearly a second on the third-down play before the defense ended the Huskers’ hopes for a victory in Madtown.