Martin: Nebraska had its chances, but ultimately falls to Wisconsin

This game perfectly encapsulated Nebraska football. Memorial Stadium was an atmosphere unlike any other throughout the first three quarters of football, but ultimately finished deflated.

The blackout was an overwhelming success, as was the tribute to the 1997 title team. It almost felt like the ghosts of Nebraska's past would help guide the Huskers to an improbable victory, one that would put this team in the drivers seat for the Big Ten title game. But sometimes, hope isn't enough.

Let's start with the opening drive. The Huskers started out with a 13 yard run from Ozigbo, then a 37 yard pass to De'mornay Pierson-El, then two rushes by Ozigbo. This left the Huskers with a third and two from the Wisconsin 17 yard line.

Instead of keeping the rushing attack rolling, Nebraska calls a screen pass to Ozigbo that goes off his hands and into the hands of Wisconsin's Chris Orr who took it to the house.

Why Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf didn't run the ball, or at least get it into the hands of a receiver on a screen play, is still puzzling to me.

Riley: "We just gave them too many opportunities."

Nebraska finally got on the board just before half with an electric 80-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Lee to Stanley Morgan Jr. that would have left the Huskers within three just before half. But again, the Huskers shoot themselves in the foot as Jonathan Taylor ran over the right tackle for a 75 yard touchdown on the next play from scrimmage.

Fast-forward to the third quarter after Aaron Williams made a house call that sent Memorial Stadium into an absolute frenzy. The roar that crowd made as Williams tied the game was unlike anything I have heard in a long time.

The Blackshirts held well throughout much of the game, and it felt like the Huskers could genuinely get a stop and have a chance to win this thing.

But that Wisconsin ground-and-pound attack is absolutely demoralizing. Eight runs and two passes later, and Nebraska was down seven. 

Another stalled drive gave Wisconsin the ball back, and they continued to pound away. 10 straight runs later, Wisconsin is up 14. 

Wisconsin ended the ball game with 20 straight runs on the way to a 38-17 victory. That's what they do, that's Big Ten football. It's a recipe for success that they have embraced for years. It's not flashy, but it's pound-you-into-submission football that tires most defenses down by the fourth quarter. 

Frankly, it's a recipe that Nebraska should take note of.

Takeaways

For the most part, Lee played very well and evaded pressure in the pocket while making precise throws for most of the game. 

Ozigbo is Nebraska's sweetheart and he showed why again tonight, reaching over 100 yards rushing for the third straight game (the first Nebraska running back to do so since Ameer Abdullah in 2014). 

JD Spielman is showing that he could be the next great Husker playmaker after grabbing six catches for 79 yards. He's only a freshman.

WATCH: Grant Wistrom leads Huskers pregame prayer

Luke Gifford's sack in the first quarter when the Huskers needed it most, down 10-0, was one of the cooler things I've seen here in Memorial Stadium. Gifford is a Lincoln-native, and when he threw the bones as the crowd erupted, you could almost see his dreams coming true in front of your eyes.

Punter Caleb Lightbourn is absolutely on fire. He has come a long way, and his consistency in the special teams game will continue to help Nebraska win the field position battle.

All in all, this is the Big Ten. Nebraska needs its playmakers to make plays. It needs its defense to stop these power running games if it wants any chance at a Big Ten title in the future.

The best part about Nebraska football is that next week, Ohio State comes to town and you can guarantee these stands will be packed to the brim, this time in red, with nothing but hope.

On to the next one.

 

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