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3 things we learned from Wisconsin’s win vs. Nebraska

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Under the bright lights of primetime, Wisconsin came away with a 41–24 victory.

Nebraska v Wisconsin Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

MADISON — After a weekend off, Wisconsin returned to game action Saturday night against a downtrodden Nebraska ball club still looking to find its footing in the Scott Frost era. Wisconsin started slow, per usual, taking a 3–0 lead into the second quarter before a Jonathan Taylor touchdown followed by a Jake Ferguson touchdown stretched the lead to 20–3 at halftime.

In the second half, Nebraska struck quickly, as JD Spielman hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass just out of reach of a stumbling Scott Nelson. Wisconsin would respond promptly, capping a 71-yard touchdown drive with a 21-yard rush from Taylor, extending the lead to 27–10.

Nebraska fumbled its last real chance at threatening Wisconsin, as freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez was hit by Tyler Johnson, forcing a fumble that led to a Badger touchdown by Taiwan Deal from 20 yards out. This put Wisconsin up 34–10, and the Badgers didn’t look back. An 88-yard rush from Taylor, his third touchdown of the day, would be the dagger for the Cornhuskers.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Jake Ferguson is here to stay

The redshirt freshman tight end has been one of Alex Hornibrook’s safety blankets so far this season, and he continued to be against Nebraska. Ferguson has excelled on third downs, registering a few more conversions on Saturday. We also saw his potential flash on a second-quarter touchdown catch. He finished with four receptions for 47 yards and the touchdown.

There’s obviously a long way to go this season, but Ferguson is a playmaker at the tight end position Wisconsin hasn’t seen since Travis Beckum.

2. This defense is not the 2017 defense, and that’s OK

The 2017 defense was truly one of the best in Wisconsin history, as well as among the country’s best. However, while some of the faces are the same, a lot of them are not, and they shouldn’t be held to the same standard as last year’s unit was.

The Badgers lost over 150 games played along the defensive line, two outside linebackers to the NFL, and three starters in the secondary. These kids are talented, but they’ll need time to develop the chemistry and experience last year’s unit possessed.

However, Martinez accumulated over 400 yards of total offense, and heading into a game next week with similar playmakers and a dual-threat quarterback, I expect Jim Leonhard to throw everything he can at Michigan.

Don’t hit the panic button, Badgers fans. Good things come to those who wait.

3. The running game is back on track

While it would probably be excessive to suggest that the Badgers have struggled this season, they’ve certainly lacked the explosiveness they had last year over the past few games. While Taylor, Taiwan Deal, and Garrett Groshek haven’t lacked production, the huge chunk plays that were fairly common last season haven’t been there.

That changed today, as Taylor had touchdown runs of 88 and 21 yards, and Deal scampered in from 20 yards out. Groshek also added a carry for 24 yards.

The Badgers will face by far the best defense they’ve seen to date next weekend. They’ll need the running game running on all cylinders if they’re going to make it out of Ann Arbor with a victory.