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Grading Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska

The Badgers ran wild in Lincoln.

The No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers went into Lincoln Saturday for a tough road date with the Nebraska Cornhuskers under the lights of Memorial Stadium. The Cornhuskers kept it close for two-and-a-half quarters before the Badgers took over the game, running the ball down the throat of the Nebraska defense over and over and over and over again for a 38–17 win.

It was a huge win for Wisconsin’s division hopes, and what started as an upset alert ended as a statement game for the Badgers.

Let’s take a look at the unit grades.

Offense: A-

Looking a bit ragged at times in the first half, the offense finished with 353 rushing yards, humbling Nebraska at home. True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor was a monster once again with 249 yards and two touchdowns, setting both a career-high and a record for rushing yards gained against a Nebraska defense.

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook finished the game with 113 passing yards, a touchdown, and a pick-six. Wide receiver Quintez Cephus was once again Wisconsin’s most consistent pass catcher on the outside, finishing with 68 yards and a touchdown.

Uncharacteristically, the line had a number of penalties that put the offense behind the eight ball on several occasions early, before grinding the Cornhuskers into corn meal.

Defense: A-

The defense looked great again. Nebraska dominated time of possession early, and finished with 381 yards of total offense, but by the end of the game looked whipped.

Linebacker Chris Orr kicked off the scoring in the first with a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown, gutting the Nebraska home crowd in the process.

Despite giving up an 80-yard touchdown to receiver Stanley Morgan, Jr., the Badgers’ secondary made big plays all game long. The Badgers only managed one sack, but were in the backfield frequently and got pressure when needed. Senior cornerback Derrick Tindal forced a critical fumble midway through the fourth quarter as Nebraska was driving.

Special Teams: B+

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone made all of his tries, including a 37-yard field goal attempt. Punter Anthony Lotti averaged 42.3 yards on four punts. Zach Hintze put five of seven kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks. A.J. Taylor had a 25-yard kickoff return.

Nebraska punter Caleb Lightbourn flipped the field several times for the Cornhuskers and may have been the team’s most valuable player.

Coaching: A-

Wisconsin once again proved to be a dominant second half-team. Head coach Paul Chryst took the air out of the ball in the fourth quarter, running the ball down the throat of the “Blackshirts.” Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s unit looked sharp, particularly the secondary. Wisconsin racked up an uncharacteristic eight penalties for 78 yards.

Overall: A-

Wisconsin went into Lincoln and got a tough road win under the lights. The Badgers’ running game demoralized Nebraska, in the process sending a message to the rest of the Big Ten West.