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Getting to know the Nebraska Cornhuskers

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A preview of Wisconsin’s next opponent.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ start under new head coach Scott Frost, well, has been fruitless in the win column to say the least.

Nebraska (0-4, 0-2 Big Ten) will enter Camp Randall Stadium hoping to notch a W in a Big Ten West divisional match-up in primetime (6:30 p.m. CT, BTN).

Last week, the Huskers gave up 516 yards (188 rushing, 328 passing) to Purdue in a 42-28 loss at Memorial Stadium. For that matter, Scott Frost’s offense actually outgained the Boilermakers 582-516 but were only four of 12 on third down and committed 11 penalties for 136 yards.

When asked about the lack of discipline on Monday, Frost noted he “saw a lot of selfish and undisciplined decisions and plays and it’s not everybody.”

“Gosh, there’s so many guys that I’m proud to be coaching and happy for. We’ve got some warriors on the football team. Somebody told me, and I don’t look at stats, that we’re last in the country in penalty yardage so there you go. You can’t bust on things and not do your assignment. You can’t hit people four yards out of bounds. They seem to be happening at terrible times for us. You get an interception and you get a holding call, you get a drive going and get a personal foul, and you get a stop of third down and you get a penalty. I think the guys doing it right finally realized that if it’s going to get stopped they can’t allow it to exist. From that standpoint it’s been kind of a water shedding moment for us this last game, and I think it’s moving in the right direction to get changed.”

Nebraska has also been outscored 155-85 so far this season, with the team being blown out 93-35 in the first half through the first four games.

Corn Nation broke down some changes in the depth chart for the Huskers, which appears to include updates at cornerback, center, right guard, running back and wide receiver.

All-time series

Wisconsin leads Nebraska 8-4, with the Badgers winning the last five match-ups dating back to the 2012 Big Ten Championship game. The two programs will once again compete for the Freedom Trophy as well, which UW has won and held on to for the past four years since its inception.

Offense

Scoring offense: 21.2 points per game (115th in nation)
Rush offense: 203.5 yards per game (41st in nation)
Pass offense: 207.2 yards per game (87th in nation)
Total offense: 410.8 yards per game (67th in nation)
3rd down conversion: 17-of-53 (32 percent...117th in nation)

The offense appears balanced both on the ground and through the air. True freshman Adrian Martinez has completed 61 percent of his passes for 532 yards with three touchdowns and interceptions each through the three games he has started for Nebraska. He is also a dual-threat quarterback, as he is second on the team in rushing (196 yards, two touchdowns).

“I think, one he’s very talented, and two, it seems like he’s got good poise,” head coach Paul Chryst said about Martinez on Monday. “Watching, he makes you defend—I think him and their offense—will make you defend the whole field and really the whole play.”

Devine Ozigbo rushed for 170 yards and averaged 10 yards per carry with two touchdowns last week against Purdue. For the season, the back leads the team in rushing yards with 260 (5.7 average) and three touchdowns on the ground. When discussing rushing the ball against Wisconsin on Monday, Ozigbo praised the Badgers:

“That’s one thing we do know; we know their front seven is great. They’re all big, strong guys and they all play well and play smart, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s like a little NFL team. Those guys are going to be very prepared. It’s definitely going to be a lot harder, but I think we can hit some runs.”

Receiving-wise, J.D. Spielman and Stanley Morgan Jr. are the two prominent playmakers at the wide receiver position. Spielman leads the team in receptions (23) and touchdown catches (four), while Morgan averages nearly 16 yards per catch and leads the team in receiving yards (269).

Defense

Scoring defense: 38.8 points per game (118th in nation)
Rush defense: 165 yards per game (80th in nation)
Pass defense: 248.8 yards per game (94th in nation)
Total defense: 413.8 yards per game (97th in nation)
3rd down conversion defense: 24-of-61 (39 percent...77th in nation)

The numbers as seen above, well, do not look great, as the Huskers rank 80th in the country or lower in four major defensive categories under new defensive coordinator Erik Chinander—the worst being scoring defense in giving up nearly 39 points per contest.

Despite the rough stats, redshirt senior guard Beau Benschawel believes the defense has a “good number of standout guys” in that front seven.

“Their nose is a really good player, [Carlos Davis] ... he’s a good squatty player,” Benzschawel said. “They’ve got a couple good guys at outside backers. They’ve got some depth at linebacker, too, so those are really the guys we [the offensive line] watch.

“Their record might not show it, but they’re a good hard-nosed football team that’s going to give us everything we can handle and we know what to expect so we have to make sure our preparation matches that.”

Inside linebacker Mohamed Barry, a former Wisconsin commit, leads the team in tackles (37) and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (five). When asked about taking on running back Jonathan Taylor on Monday, he mentioned his excitement and likened the match-up against Michigan earlier this year and noted “it’s a front seven game all over again, and we can make it right this time.”

“They have a great running back, Jonathan Taylor, and everyone knows about the history about Wisconsin’s o-linemen, and to have that in front of you is a great challenge to have. So I’m just ready, I’m excited. I love football and a lot of people on this defense do too. So, you’re about to play Wisconsin, they’re going to run it, and we’re in Camp Randall, so let’s do it.”

On the edge, outside linebackers Luke Gifford and Tyrin Ferguson have combined for 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks through four games this season. Alongside Barry, inside linebacker Dedrick Young has tallied 25 tackles, three for loss.

As noted by Corn Nation, junior cornerback Eric Lee, Jr.—who recorded five tackles last week against Purdue—is up as a starter on Nebraska’s depth chart. He is joined by Dicaprio Bootle as first-team corners, with Bootle leading the team in pass break-ups (10) and the nation in passes defended per game (2.5).

Special teams

Through four games, Barret Pickering is 3-of-6 for field goals. He is 3-of-4 between 20-to-39 yards and 0-for-2 from 40 yards or more.

Punter Caleb Lightbourn has averaged 42.7 yards per punt with only three inside the 20-yard line.

Opponents have scored on two punt returns already this season against the Huskers.