Five things we learned from Wisconsin's win at Nebraska
Nebraska regained its offensive swagger, but No. 15 Wisconsin overcame a rough day defensively with the help of Jonathan Taylor and the rushing game in a 37-21 victory inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
BadgerBlitz.com breaks down five things we learned from the win.
1. Death. Taxes. Jonathan Taylor going for over 200 yards against Nebraska.
It was the lowest rushing total of his trio of performances against Nebraska the past three seasons, but Taylor still gained 204 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns on Saturday afternoon.
That not only cemented Taylor's status as another Badger back to run over a Huskers defense, but he also made history (again) this weekend. In the fourth quarter - and as noted by UW - he surpassed famed Georgia running back Herschel Walker for the most individual yards rushing by a student-athlete "through his junior season."
For that matter, and as seen below, Taylor now ranks second in Big Ten Conference history for career rushing yards. Along with passing Walker in the aforementioned category, he jumps over Ohio State's Archie Griffin for the latter mark. Taylor trails just Ron Dayne for the all-time record.
On the day, Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) ran for 320 yards on 7.1 yards per carry. Oddly enough, Taylor's longest run was just 19 yards. According to StatBroadcast, nine of his 25 carries went for 10-plus yards.
In three career games against the Huskers, Taylor has now rushed for 674 yards on 74 carries and seven touchdowns.
2. As seen against Illinois and Ohio State, Wisconsin's run defense is not impenetrable.
Ohio State gained 264 rushing yards in late October, but this was the defense's worst showing of the season on Saturday inside Memorial Stadium. Overall, Nebraska gashed UW for 493 total yards, and 273 came on the ground with the combination of quarterback Adrian Martinez and running back Dedrick Mills.
Mills averaged 11.1 yards per carry -- 188 total with a touchdown -- and the back had nine runs of 10-plus yards. Martinez threw for 220 on the day, but he also gained 89 through the ground game on 16 attempts. Along with that 5.6 yards per carry average, his day included a run of 45.
According to StatBroadcast, Nebraska had 13 runs of 10 or more yards. That amount of chunk plays against a defense should sink any team's ship on a given Saturday. Though Purdue is not known for its rushing attack (76.8 yards per game) - and not wanting to look two games ahead to Minnesota - but the Gophers could present significant troubles for the Badgers.
3. Wisconsin's frequent missed tackles killed them during the game.
One of the main causes of Nebraska's big day, and something we saw in particular during the road loss against Illinois nearly a month ago, was missed tackles. They popped up in significant fashion on Saturday in Lincoln, both in the passing and rushing attacks thrown at the Badgers.
Credit Nebraska for coming off a bye week and having a fire underneath its feet to get its offense back on track. But UW's defense has shown now in at least two games this season that tackling can be an issue. The way the Huskers created so much space in the open field and eluded attempted tackles will be something to watch to see if there is any improvement in the final two regular season games.
What saved the defensive unit this weekend? A trio of fourth-down stops.
4. Wisconsin showed more mettle in its fourth down stands.
Last week, Wisconsin allowed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Iowa late in the fourth quarter. With the potential of a tied game on the line, Chris Orr and Eric Burrell met Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley at the one-yard line in a huge stop.
Saturday, the Badgers faced three fourth-down situations inside their own territory that they squashed. During a 4th-and-3 from the UW 33-yard line, defensive end Garrett Rand eventually stuffed Mills for a one-yard loss. The offense took over from there and marched 53 yards in 10 plays that resulted in a Collin Larsh 31-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead.
Then Jim Leonhard's unit made two key stops on that down in the fourth quarter. Trying to hold a 34-21 lead, Wisconsin needed to stop a 4th-and-4 from its own 17-yard line. Outside linebacker Zack Baun met Martinez and stopped the dual-threat quarterback two yards short of the sticks. The offense again took the ball and finished the subsequent drive with a Larsh field goal, this time from 30 yards out to cap UW's scoring with a 16-point lead.
The last opportunity came late in the game on a 4th-and-goal from the Wisconsin four-yard line. Martinez found Wyatt Mazour out of the backfield, but safety Reggie Pearson (10 tackles, eight solo) laid a lick on the back and stopped him at the one, forcing a turnover on downs. The Badgers' offense was able to run out the clock for the win.
5. Aron Cruickshank's playmaking ability can change games.
Throughout fall camp and at times this season, we have seen flashes from Aron Cruickshank -- especially in the kickoff return game. Saturday, the sophomore wide receiver took a first quarter kick and sprinted 89 yards to pay dirt that led to a 7-7 game.
On 15 returns this season, he now averages 28.4 yards per attempt after the win over Nebraska.
For that matter, we have seen more looks on the offensive side of the ball with the second-year wide out as well. Along with his long 27-yard run against Ohio State on Oct. 26, Cruickshank also ran the ball twice for 13 yards facing the Nebraska defense this weekend.