The problem is – most Husker fans aren’t really surprised.
Up 17-3 early in the second quarter, Nebraska looked like everything was going their way. The Huskers were keeping Heisman running back candidate Melvin Gordon in check, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave was running for his life, and the Blackshirt defense was forcing turnovers.
Then as head coach Bo Pelini put it, something flipped.
The defense gave up long run after long run to Gordon, the offense couldn’t move the ball, and turnovers created weren’t capitalized on. The only thing that was going right was Sam Foltz booming punts.
56 unanswered points later; Nebraska scored a garbage touchdown to pull within 59-24.
“I have no idea,” said Pelini. “I just told our guys, if you get hit in the mouth and things start going away from you obviously you got to respond better than we did. That was the disappointing part.”
Since joining the Big Ten Conference in 2011, Nebraska lost a game by 20+ points seven times – three of those contest came to the hands of the Badgers. Getting hit in the mouth and not responding is somewhat become a norm for the Huskers – it happens at least once a year.
It usually though, hasn’t happened after a bye week.
“Let’s face it, at the end of the day, in this profession I’m in, I point the thumb and take responsibility for this football team,” said Pelini. “It wasn’t good enough.”
It was the second straight time Nebraska wasn’t good enough against the Badgers, the last coming in the Big Ten Championship game in 2012 – the Huskers lost the game 70-31.
“It’s easy to draw parallels between the two games, but it’s different players and different situations – obviously same staff,” said Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis. “We have a lot to figure out on what we can do better.”
The research to that mystery starts Sunday morning.
“It’s time to circle the wagons and rally,” said senior offensive lineman Jake Cotton. “Can’t let this get us down or start pointing fingers. We can’t listen to the noise. We got to stay within our complex so to speak. We can’t let our approach change or anything change from week-to-week. Time to get back to work and prepare for Minnesota.”
The problem is - maybe something needs to change in Lincoln.
At 8-2 on the year, Nebraska’s slim playoff chances are thrown out the window. A Big Ten title appearance is all but gone. With two bowl bound teams and a bowl game left on the schedule, it’s not hard to imagine Nebraska going 1-2 over their last three. For those complaining about the four-loss rut, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Nebraska hits the record books:
Could you ever imagine a day where Nebraska’s defense gave up a major NCAA offensive single-game record?
I couldn’t either.
After 408 rushing yards, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon is the NCAA’s new single-game rushing leader, passing TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson. With the way offenses are headed in college football, it’s a black eye that might stick with the Huskers forever.
Maybe the worst thing about the situation, it happened in just three quarters.
“Gordon is a hell of a back, but we played a big role in that,” said Pelini. “ We didn’t play like a smart football team, and there was breakdown after breakdown.
The Huskers will have to figure out those breakdowns in a hurry. They play a Minnesota team who mirrors Wisconsin’s heavy run offense next week.
Bo Pelini post-game audio:
* Despite being held to just two catches, it was all Nebraska senior receiver Kenny Bell needed to become the Huskers all-time career receiving yards leader.
* The kickoff temperature was 26 degrees, which was the coldest in Madison since the 1960s.
* Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini admitted senior running back Ameer Abdullah wasn’t 100 percent after spraining his MCL two weeks ago against Purdue. It possibly showed a few times on various blitz pickups. Abdullah was held to just 69 yards on the ground and now needs 484 in the Huskers last three games to become the school’s all-time career rushing leader. It appears the chance at the record is slipping away.
* After forcing two first quarter turnovers, three in the first half, Nebraska lost the turnover battle 5-4 on Saturday.
* Pelini was asked if he thought the program was beyond losing a game the way they did on Saturday. "I don't get into all these big picture talks," said the seventh year head coach. "It's one football game. This program has won a lot of football games."
Stick with Big Red Report for more reaction and stories from Madison.