Every week Herald Sports will look back at the most recent Wisconsin football game and award grades to each position group on a scale of zero to five. Here’s a look at how the Badgers handled their toughest opponent yet in a 48-17 victory over Nebraska.
Quarterbacks — 5 out of 5
Saturday night was all about Russell Wilson. He completed 14 of his 20 attempts for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran six times, scoring one touchdown on the ground as well. His stats are great, but they don’t fully explain the type of game Wilson had.
Although he took two sacks, there were multiple occasions where a simple side step to avoid the defender kept the play alive, allowing him to find a receiver down the field. Wilson absolutely shined Saturday night. Even J.J. Watt tweeted that he was “for real.”
Running Backs — 5 out of 5
Two words: Montee Ball.
Ball ran as if he had a chip on his shoulder. Nebraska stopped the run early, but Ball slowly began to break loose from tackles and picked up some big yards. Not only did he score four touchdowns — one of which he shook off three separate Huskers to walk into the end zone — Ball also amassed 151 yards on 30 carries, his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.
Tight ends — 3.5 out of 5
The tight ends weren’t a major factor in the game. Jacob Pedersen did catch three passes for 49 yards, but otherwise they were basically a non-factor against Nebraska. With some key blocks they helped the running game find the end zone four times, but otherwise the tight ends didn’t stand out like they have in the past.
Wide receivers — 5 out of 5
Between Nick Toon’s improbable receptions and Jared Abbrederis’ reverse, the wide outs had one of their best performances yet. Abbrederis was the top receiver of the weekend with five catches for 95 yards and one touchdown. Toon was the most dynamic he’s been all season, catching what looked like an unavoidable interception and ending the night with four receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown as well.
Offensive line — 3.5 out of 5
As any football enthusiast knows, running backs can’t have great games without great offensive lines in front of them. The line created holes for Ball to run through and a comfortable pocket for Wilson to throw from.
But they weren’t perfect. Wilson took a sack early on and also faced multiple instances of having to avoid Nebraska defensemen in the back field — which wasn’t too difficult for a sure-footed quarterback.
The O-line is also becoming more disciplined, committing no false starts, but they still had two holding calls. Both tackles, Ricky Wagner and Josh Oglesby, suffered holding calls throughout the game.
Defensive line — 4 out of 5
The defense started out a little shaky, facing it’s toughest opponent yet. The line faced issues stopping the run early in the night but eventually was able to bring pressure on Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, sacking him twice. Beau Allen and Brendan Kelly both stepped up for the defense, each earning a sack as well as combining for a total of nine tackles on the night.
Linebackers — 5 out of 5
Mike Taylor had one of his strongest games all year, intercepting Martinez on top of 14 tackles. Chris Borland also notched eight tackles on the night. The two defensive leaders helped account for a momentum swing in the first half, spurring the Badgers second half dominance.
In his return to the starting lineup, Kevin Claxton made a small contribution with three tackles, but with the three experienced linebackers, Martinez was held to only 68 rushing yards.
Secondary — 3.5 out of 5
Of the three interceptions in the game, the secondary accounted for two of them. Senior safety Aaron Henry and cornerback Antonio Fenelus each returned interceptions for 10 or more yards, which eventually led to UW touchdowns.
While the coverage got stronger throughout the night, Martinez was still able to have his way passing, oftentimes finding wide open receivers in the middle of the field. The coverage was good enough in the end, but it could have been better.
Specialists — 3.5 out of 5
Between a blocked PAT and a fumble on a punt return, the special teams could have had a better night. Poor tackling on kick and punt returns also led to decent field position for Nebraska.
But Alec Lerner did show more consistency on kickoffs, and Philip Welch returned to bring a veteran back into the kicking game.