The Wisconsin Badgers finally reached bowl eligibility, snapping a three-game losing streak with a 24-17 overtime win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, improving to 6-5 in their final home game of the season.
The Badgers overcame a slow start and injury concerns to will through a win over the Cornhuskers, pulling out a needed victory with a strong finish.
Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers 24-17 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The Wisconsin Badgers did not start the game well at all, despite head coach Luke Fickell clamoring for a fast start once again.
Mistakes on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball led to an early 14-0 deficit for the Badgers through the first quarter, with the momentum at an all-time low after an ugly first 15 minutes.
However, everything turned around on a 4th & 1 stop at the UW 33-yard line early in the second quarter, which was the Badgers first stop of the game.
From there, the Badgers started to take off, scoring on a nine-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a 26-yard touchdown from Tanner Mordecai to Jackson Acker on a wheel route.
Wisconsin earned another stop defensively before pushing forward with a field goal in the redzone, cutting the lead to 14-10, which was the score at halftime after Nebraska missed a 42-yard field goal to end the half.
After a quick three-and-out, the Badgers continued to turn things around in the second half, getting another stop and scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive, with Braelon Allen capping things off with a two-yard score to make it 17-14.
It was a hard fought stalemate from there, as the Badgers were stuffed twice on 4th down inside Nebraska territory, while the Cornhuskers couldn’t get anything going until the final drive, where they pushed for a field goal, forcing overtime.
But, it didn’t stop there, as the Badgers somehow found their way through an ugly drive to a touchdown in overtime, and an interception ultimately sealed them the victory.
While the Badgers didn’t start either half fast by any means, it was a strong response by the team, who were able to pull through and earn a much-needed victory.
Give a sh*t factor
We heard the frustrations from players after the last game and during the week, where player effort was questioned, with quarterback Tanner Mordecai acknowledging that the team would see their “give a shit” factor this week.
Well, it’s safe to say that a good number of players showed out with that factor, ultimately aiding the Badgers in their efforts.
It starts at the head of the snake with Mordecai himself, who overcame a sluggish start that involved a few questionable decisions to put together a gutsy performance.
It was clear that he wanted this victory bad, as the quarterback consistently found ways to make plays when his team needed him, which occurred all the way till the end when the quarterback took off for a nine-yard scramble on third down to keep the Badgers hopes alive in overtime.
Now, the stats don’t pop off the charts; Mordecai tossed for 160 yards on 18/28 passing and had 60 rushing yards on seven attempts, but his heart was a major reason that the Badgers won.
Braelon Allen also powered through injuries in aiding the Badgers. Once again, the statistics don’t necessarily pop up, as he had just 62 yards on 22 carries, his second-highest of the season.
But, Allen came together with a number of vital runs late in the game, which was best seen at the end, where the running back powered through on 4th down to convert the team’s first fourth down of the day before scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
I thought the effort levels were especially high from certain players, as C.J. Goetz and James Thompson both exhibited a high motor on the defensive line, while others like Will Pauling (more on him in a minute) played their hearts out.
The Badgers needed all of those efforts to beat Nebraska, and it came at a vital time.
It took me one route in spring ball for me to see that Will Pauling was a guy.
The Badgers starting slot receiver was the player that popped off the most to me in the spring, which is why I deemed him as the top receiver on the team and predicted the transfer wideout to lead the team in all receiving categories this season.
Pauling has absolutely played up to my expectations and more, which was on display Saturday, as the slot receiver made big play after big play, ending with eight catches and 79 yards in the air on 11 targets.
Pauling was significantly needed on Saturday with Bryson Green out and Chimere Dike limited, and he came to play.
The Badgers looked to work at all levels of the field with Pauling, and it worked, with Mordecai firing a number of darts in his direction.
Even on the plays that were incompletions to him, Pauling managed to get open, detailing how effective he was overall.
Pauling got injured late in the fourth quarter and did not return, but he was a huge factor in the win for the Badgers.