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Grading Wisconsin’s escape against Nebraska

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Wisconsin beat Nebraska on Senior Day in Madison, but it was close.

Nebraska v Wisconsin Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Rubric - Wisconsin Football Unit Grades

Grade Description - accounting for degree of difficulty
Grade Description - accounting for degree of difficulty
A Excellent: Top-5 level performance
B Very good: Top-tier Big Ten performance
C Acceptable: Average for the Big Ten
D Unacceptable: Below average for the Big Ten
F Failure: Rutgers level performance
N/A Insufficient evidence for a grade

Offense: B+

QB: B+
O-line: B
RB/FB: A
WR/TE: B

Rationale:

Wisconsin looked glances around cautiously good on offense against Nebraska. Now, this is a team that the Badgers typically have success against, but there were no glaring issues for a unit who has slowly been putting the pieces back together as this season has come along.

Graham Mertz didn’t put the ball in harm’s way, and facilitated the offense. He was even the victim of a dropped deep ball from the normally sure-handed Kendric Pryor. His upward trajectory from early in the season has been nice to see, and should be a nice launching off point for the rest of the season.

Freshman RB Braelon Allen was, to the shock of no one in attendance, the best player on the field when Wisconsin was on offense. With about two minutes left in the first quarter, he had a 71-yard touchdown run that put him over 100 yards in his seventh straight game, which set the Wisconsin freshman record, breaking the previous mark from 2001 previously held by Anthony Davis.

The rest of the perimeter players played well, in particular Pryor (who made up for his drop with a touchdown reception) and Jake Ferguson (who led the team in receptions with eight), who are fitting benefactors of the success on their senior day.

Defense: B-

Pass rush: C
Pass coverage: C+
Run defense: B+

Rationale:

For the first time this season, Wisconsin’s defense was gashed early and often in this one, though they were able to piece together some turnovers and take advantage of Nebraska’s errors long enough until they were able to settle down.

Though the Badgers didn’t have much success in the pass rush, they were able to force Martinez to try to beat them through the air rather than with his legs. Martinez got Wisconsin a number of times with his arm, but not enough to consistently keep every Nebraska drive on the field.

Collin Wilder had two second half interceptions, another nice performance for the senior in his last game in Camp Randall, and Nebraska couldn’t finish a couple of drives, despite more than a couple big plays on the afternoon.

Special Teams: B

Kicking: C-
Punting: B
Returning: A
Coverage: B

Rationale:

Stephan Bracey started the game, and his season, off with a bang. The Michigan native’s first touch of the season went back 91 yards to the house on the opening kickoff, and got Wisconsin on the board quickly in this one.

The rare explosive play out of Wisconsin’s special teams was crucial, as the Badgers’ typical nearly impenetrable defense was pushed early and often by Nebraska’s offense.

Coaching: B

Strategy: B+
Adjustments: B
Play-calling: B

Rationale:

All-around, a nice game for the Badgers. This wasn’t their most dominating performance, but they did what they do, and put their players in position to succeed and make plays.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Wisconsin Appleton Post Crescent-USA TODAY Sports

The Badgers started blitzing Martinez after a few big chunks early, and they were able to get a few takeaways and change the complexion of the ball game. Wisconsin made fewer mistakes, which often is a reflection of coaching.

Overall grade: B+

Unit Grades: B
Big plays: A
Game Control: B-
Penalties & Discipline: C+

Rationale:

Wisconsin gutted out a win against the Huskers and that deserves some credit, but the defense had zero answers for Adrian Martinez. Luckily, Braelon Allen was just about untackleable and the defense had enough left in the tank to stop a game-tying touchdown after Nebraska got into the redzone.

The big plays were bountiful for both offenses, and Wisconsin managed to make just one more than the Huskers to get the win. It is yet another one-score loss for Scott Frost during his Nebraska tenure which, to be fair, is hilarious.