I don't know about you, but I'm really getting sick of watching Wisconsin come "this close" on the road against a ranked Big Ten opponent. For the 3rd time in two seasons Wisconsin led against their ranked opponent on the road and found a unique way to blow said lead.
Every Thursday we give you 5 Things to Watch For in the upcoming game, now with conference play happening it's only right we revisit these topics. Especially since Saturday's loss is so dumbfounding in it's collapse. So, let's see what happened with our "5 Things to Watch" against Nebraska and give you Thumbs Up/Down on each of them.
1) Health: Obviously Montee Ball played, rushing for 90 yards on 32 carries for a paltry 2.8avg, but he broke out for 3 rushing touchdowns as well. David Gilbert and Tyler Dippel both played with Gilbert having 3 tackles, 1tfl, and 1 sack. Dippel added 4 tackles as a starting defensive end with Brendan Kelly sitting out. During the game we didn't see much in the way of major injuries, minus Stave taking a few brutal hits that led to Danny O'Brien coming in. So, because of Gilbert's play I'll give this a Thumbs Up.
2) Turnovers: This was one of the biggest bright spots for Wisconsin on Saturday. The Badgers lost just one fumble, but it came at the worst possible time as they were driving deep to attempt and switch up the momentum that had swung so far to the Huskers. Overall Wisconsin forced 6 fumbles, 3 of which they recovered while only giving up the ball once themselves. Gilbert's sack also created a fumble that Wisconsin converted into a touchdown and seemingly blowing this game wide open early on. Thumbs Up for this one too.
3) Protecting Stave: Stave was sacked three times in the game, a total that's not terrible by any means, but that doesn't tell the whole story. At least one of those sacks was completely on Stave for holding the ball way too late and trying to make a play when it wasn't there. Chalk that up to a freshman trying to make something happen and move on, right? The biggest issues for the offensive line and protecting Stave came in the 2nd half where he had to hang in the pocket and take some pretty vicious hits, eventually knocking him out of the game late in the contest. That makes this not a successful night for this unit, Thumbs Down for getting your QB knocked out of the game.
4) Gordon's Role: What role? Melvin Gordon touched the ball all of 3 times (2 rushes 1 catch) on the offensive side of the ball, believe it or not it was the 2nd highest total for a running back on Saturday night. He gained just 5 yards on his 2 carries and had an 8 yard reception as well. His role was non-existent in the return game as well. In my opinion Wisconsin could've really used his spark in the second half, especially since not much else was working right at all. Thumbs Down to the coaching staff for not getting him more involved in the game.
5) Jack Russell: Wisconsin needed Jack Russell in a big way and he was no better than, in fact he might have been worse than Kyle French. He missed an extra point and a field goal during the game and having those 4 points back on the board would've given Wisconsin the victory over Nebraska when no one saw it coming. Instead those points never showed up and the Badgers lost by just three. BIG Thumbs Down for the Freshman kicker.