We’ve got four of our writers gathered together to discuss the Wisconsin win over Nebraska on Saturday afternoon, so we’ll save the flowery introduction for a different post. Here is what Ryan, Tyler, Owen and J.J. had to say about the Badgers beating the Huskers for the eighth straight time.
I don’t know how to keep asking about how awesome Braelon Allen is but, uh, how awesome was he against Nebraska?
Ryan: Allen was exactly what Wisconsin needed today. His footwork was incredible and he continued to run through everyone and show his burst once he got into the next level of the defense. He also helped continue Wisconsin’s dominance of Nebraska in the rushing game.
J.J.: I can’t do any actual analysis that anyone else hasn’t done already. He’s so damn good.
Owen: It’s evidently clear that his development as a running back is on a near nuclear trajectory at this point. It’s unfortunate that Chez Mellusi got injured, but for the future of Allen at running back, his physical floor due to his genetics was high, but now being able to learn the position on the fly with starting reps will only expedite his rise to the top of the list of runners in the Big Ten.
Tyler: He’s unbelievable. He’s like a combo between JT and MG3 with the power of one and breakaway speed of another…..and he’s only 17. I try not to get overly excited about a player but how can you not with him? Also, how the hell did he not get snaps from the jump? How did they not see that he’s the best back they have by far? That still makes me scratch my head but alas, he’s good. Really good.
What went wrong with the Wisconsin defensive gameplan on Saturday?
Ryan: Adrian Martinez is such an athletic quarterback, that it was hard for Wisconsin to put the pressure on him that they are usually able to put on other quarterbacks. His ability to evade the Badgers allowed his receivers more time to generate space down the field.
J.J.: I’ll make it 4/4 on Adrian Martinez complaints. I’m not sure if he’s actually the long term answer for Nebraska at quarterback, but when he’s on his game he’s a problem. Wisconsin seemed to struggle with dealing with a quarterback who could make things happen even after the pocket collapsed, and that was adjustment that had to be made.
Owen: Nebraska did a good job keeping Martinez mobile and not a statue in the pocket for Wisconsin to attack. Martinez’s athleticism and ability to extend plays made it difficult on Badger defensive backs to cover for long periods of time. Also, credit where credit is due, Samori Toure and Austin Allen are future NFL guys, so it’s not like Wisconsin was getting beat by guys going pro in something other than sports.
Tyler: I think if you recall other games against Adrian Martinez you kinda expected this. He’s had career games against Wisconsin all three times they’ve played. I thought the defense got caught up in his feet at times and blew coverage because of it. Jim Leonhard likes to blitz and we saw that for better or worse on Saturday. Overall though, this group has played incredible 10 of 11 games. Not many other teams can say that.
What did you think of Paul Chryst’s play-calling?
Ryan: I loved it. The defense struggled, leaving the offense to have to make things happen in order for Wisconsin to win and Paul put them into the right position to do exactly that.
J.J.: The offense needed to step up in a game like this, and it did. Braelon Allen is something of a get out of jail free card, but even then Chryst has done well schematically to get the most out of both him and quarterback Graham Mertz, who seems to grow every game. Mertz’s improvement is a shining endorsement of Chryst and absolutely vital to the Badgers hopes of competing for future Big Ten titles.
Owen: Everyone wanted Chryst’s head on a silver platter earlier in the season, but it’s clear he’s settling back in as a play caller, which does take time, just like it does for players to settle in. He’s getting a better sense of what Mertz is comfortable doing, and putting him in situations to succeed. Also, the Badgers’ run game has a much more visible identity than it did earlier in the season, which makes things easier on literally everybody.
Tyler: I think it was great. He knew his defense was struggling and he took it upon the offense to win them the game. That’s nice to see. I love aggressive Paul Chryst and think he’s done a great job of putting his guys in positions to succeed.
How about Stephan Bracey? First play of the season and he takes it to the house! What was it like experiencing a positive big special teams play?
Ryan: It was amazing. The kid has been through one hell of a year, needing two surgeries to repair his quad and for him to work back and be rewarded for all of that work the first time he touches the ball, was something out of a movie. I don’t think I have seen a Badger return man attack a return like that in quite some time. He corralled the ball and took off like he was shot out of a cannon, bounced off a defender and was GONE.
J.J.: Special team problems?? What special teams problems?? Obviously it was just one play, but that was the spark that the Badgers have been missing. Hopefully he keeps it up because he looked really positive when he was out there today.
Owen: Wisconsin has been targeting these players, obviously Aron Criuickshank is at Rutgers now, but this is the exact role. Use these little jitterbug receivers in the return game and on jet sweeps! It seems like a decade ago that Cruickshank took a kick back to the house against Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
Also, it’s awesome to see for the kid, who as Ryan mentioned, has fought back through injuries to get the opportunity. You don’t get limitless chances to play football, you’ve gotta make the most of them, and Bracey did on Saturday afternoon.
Tyler: Huge. We knew Nebraska’s special teams were cheeks and it showed there, but a lot of cred it has to go to Bracey for making a play. It was a major piece of the game for UW.
Even though he never beats Wisconsin, will you be happy once Adrian Martinez graduates?
Ryan: Yes. He is so athletic and hard to prepare for and even harder to execute against. I will miss his timely turnovers, though.
J.J.: Yes. He’s frustratingly good in that he’s not a top five quarterback in the conference but still good enough to give defenses fits every time they play him.
Owen: Adrian Martinez, Taylor Martinez, Pedro Martinez, I don’t care, I wouldn’t be heartbroken to see another one ever again!
On a serious note, I was at the 2018 game when he was a true freshman, and he’s had a nice career, maybe not what you thought it might be when he was a true freshman playing backyard football, but I will not be upset that Wisconsin doesn’t have to deal with his athleticism any longer.
Tyler: I’ll miss his interceptions but not his feet. Good luck wherever life takes you, AM.
Looking ahead to next week, what do the Badgers have to do to win at Minnesota?
Ryan: Play complimentary football like they have been over their seven-game win streak. The defense should get back to its normal form next week, as Tanner Morgan doesn’t present quite the challenge that Martinez does. Offensively, just give Allen the ball and sit back and watch him work. Mertz will also need to keep up his level of play that he has been at during the win streak. He is really starting to come into his own and it’s great to see.
J.J.: Play Minnesota like teams played them at the start of the season. Like Owen said, stuff the line, and force Tanner Morgan to beat the Badgers over the top. At the start of the season teams like Notre Dame and Michigan did the same thing with Mertz and won handily when the offense became reliant on his ability. I suspect we could see a similar game script if Morgan is forced to be the hero for the Gophers. On offense, how about another Braelon Allen 220/3 game? That would help I think.
Owen: If Wisconsin can stop the run, they’ll put themselves in a real good position. *insert video of Elon Musk talking about the SEC* I do not respect Tanner Morgan as a passer, and Wisconsin should be able to give them issues. If they can keep Minnesota from pounding away on the ground with their mammoth offensive line, Wisconsin should get out of Minneapolis as Big Ten West champs, and head to Indianapolis for a date with (probably) Ohio State at 9-3. Not too bad for a team who needed to fire their head coach and bench their quarterback, huh?
Tyler: I think they just need to throw out the Nebraska game and play the same style of complementary football that won them the other six games of this streak and they’ll be fine. Run it, stop the run, pick off Tanner Morgan a time or two and get ready for Indy.