The virtual Wisconsin Badgers had everything lined up the way they wanted it to be. They were undefeated at 8-0 and ranked No. 3 and were prepared to welcome 8-0 and No. 2 Nebraska to Camp Randall Stadium for a de facto Big Ten West title game. Coach Hamm was confident, maybe too confident in retrospect based on his pregame and in-game beverage choices.
The Badgers kicked off to the Cornhuskers and QB Adrian Martinez took advantage of Wisconsin’s inability to stop the read option by rushing for over 70 yards and a touchdown in under a minute to open up the game. After that, the game went back and forth with Nebraska taking a 28-17 lead into halftime thanks to a Jack Coan interception which gave the Huskers another chance after going three and out at the end of the first quarter.
Wisconsin scored quickly to open the third quarter but another turnover, this time a fumble by the usually reliable Garrett Groshek, only allowed Wisconsin to cut the lead to 10 heading into the fourth and final quarter. UW forced a missed field goal to start the fourth and then John Chenal punched in a TD to cut the lead to three. After holding the Huskers to a field goal, Wisconsin got the ball back with the chance to take the lead.
Coan marched UW right down the field with a surgeon’s precision and Jonathan Taylor scored his third touchdown of the game with 2:27 to go. Sadly, that was plenty of time for Martinez to take Nebraska into the endzone and take the lead for good. Wisconsin had two more shots, going three and out, but then Nebraska false started on a meaningless field goal attempt where they weren’t even going to snap the ball and Wisconsin got the ball back for one last heave after UNL missed the field goal.
Brutal defeat. Brutal defense. Just brutal all around.
Martinez passed for 80 yards but Nebraska ran the ball 49 times for 473 yards and six touchdowns which is, well, it was not good for Wisconsin. The fact that UW turned it over twice and Nebraska managed to record zero turnovers was also a key turning point as well. Coan threw for 308 yards with one score and one pick to help pace the Wisconsin offense but it wasn’t quite enough. Jake Ferguson caught nine balls for 149 yards and the one score while Quintez Cephus had seven catches for 83 yards and Danny Davis III added three catches for 70.
The defense, who did not have a good game, had a couple of big stops including a Collin Wilder sack that held Nebraska to a field goal in the second half. Eric Burrell led the way with nine tackles while Rachad Wildgoose, Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams each had seven stops.
So, that was the first loss of the season and a major bummer especially since it was to a division rival who was also undefeated. But, alas, we must move forward. The next game was against Indiana and they stink! Well...with the ball on their own 20-yard line and only seconds left in the first half, the Badgers were only up a touchdown, 24-17.
Jack Coan uncorked an 80-yard pass to A.J. Taylor for a touchdown as time expired and UW seemingly had all the momentum in the game. Of course IU outscored UW 14-7 in the third to enter the fourth only down a touchdown and really put Coach Hamm’s feet to the fire.
The Badgers outscored IU 20-0 in the fourth, with Chase Wolf even getting in on the touchdown action, to run away with the game 58-31.
Now, uh, this is where things get a little hazy for ol’ Coach Hamm as apparently I started simulating games. The last game of the season against Minnesota ended up being a loss by...a certain number of points, who can really say, but then Wisconsin won their bowl game which was ??? against ??? so that’s good! There was also a bunch of offseason recruiting stuff done that I don’t really remember, but we’ll take a look at the freshmen in another post.
As far as end of the season awards go, Jonathan Taylor won the Heisman Trophy and the Doak Walker Award. Coan set a school record with 3,366 passing yards on the season and is the second leading returning passer for next season. Jacky Heisman???
Rachad Wildgoose won the Bednarik Award and the Thorpe Award as the best defensive player and cornerback in the country, respectively.
Noah Burks won Best LB (45 tackles, four sacks, three picks, two TDs) and Jake Ferguson won the Mackey Award as the best TE in the country (71 catches for 1,071 yards and 10 scores). Presumably all of these players were All-Americans and All-B1G players but who knows?!?
So, not a terrible season record-wise at 11-2 but a pretty disappointing end with losses to Nebraska and Minnesota. I’ll try and find out which bowl the Badgers won and whether or not Nebraska won the national championship and let you know in the comments.