Natrell Jamerson and Joe Schobert deliver big special teams play in Wisconsin's win over Maryland

Wisconsin's special teams stole the show against one of the best returners in the country, registering a pair of big plays in the first half that proved critical in the Badgers' 31-24 win over Maryland.

COLLEGE PARK, MD – As much as Joe Schobert loves creating havoc on defense, Wisconsin’s senior outside linebacker likes to think he is pretty good at other things, too.

After all, Schobert does hold the state record for totaling 296 rushing yards on 38 carries when his Waukesha West team won the Division 1 state title in 2010 when he was a junior. It’s part of the reason why he’s always in head coach Paul Chryst’s ear about his stature as a tailback.

“I tell him all the time definitely,” said Schobert. “We kind of joke about it (but) semi-serious.”

Schobert got his chance Saturday on a 57-yard run off a fake punt, one of a pair of special teams plays in the first half that played big part in Wisconsin’s 31-24 win over Maryland at Byrd Stadium.

“(I think about using him at running back) every time he comes up to me and says he was a great tailback,” said Chryst. “I don’t believe him.”

All the talk for Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) leading up to Saturday’s game against Maryland was containing cornerback and return specialist Will Likely - with good reason.

Likely returned 21 punts through eight games with an average of 19.1 yards per opportunity, good for fourth in the nation. His two punt returns for touchdowns, tied for best in the FBS. He also averaged over 25 yards per kickoff return with a touchdown as well.

Not only did Wisconsin make him a nonfactor (54 total yards on four returns), they stole his thunder.

After Maryland took a 7-0 lead after a seven-yard touchdown run by running back Wes Brown in the first quarter, sophomore cornerback Natrell Jamerson followed his blockers and sprinted 98 yards to the house to tie the game.

“Jamer can run,” said Chryst. “It was big for that group, not just for Natrell … Natrell’s name goes on that return, but it’s pretty cool the excitement all those guys had, and even the ones that weren’t on the field. They know what that group’s been doing. We haven’t been great on kickoff returns. It was good to get one.”

It was a huge boost for a return unit ranked 124th in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging only 16.5 yards per game. Jamerson’s average was only a hint higher coming into the game at 18.4, with his longest return of 33 coming in the first game of the season against Alabama.

“Every guy just did their job,” said senior fullback Derek Watt, who levied one of the key blocks. “We knew going in it’s going to pop sometime. We haven’t had exactly every guy buying in all year. We’ve been working hard but it hasn’t been there. Today it just clicked.”

Schobert’s play was also critical. On a fourth-and-1 at their own 22-yard line, Schobert told Chryst to gamble and take a chance, guaranteeing he would make it. The snap went straight to him, who found a crease and rumbled 57-yards down to the Maryland 21.

The next play, another former walk-on, running back Dare Ogunbowale, scored from 21 yards out, and the Badgers were now up 14-7. Schobert led the team in rushing on the afternoon on that one carry alone.

“They were in a rush look and they kind of repped to our right side and opened up a little hole on the left,” said Schobert. “Guys did a great job blocking and moving the punt return team off the ball. I don’t think I was touched until I got to the returner.”

The special teams as a whole weren’t great all around. Senior punter Drew Meyer had a 24-yard and an 11-yard punt, the latter coming after he stutter stepped following a slip of the ball. Both resulted in short field for the Terrapins, converting both into seven points.

Near disaster was averted when a recovered onsides kick by Maryland with a little more than two minutes to go was called back due to an offsides penalty. The Badgers didn’t fail to recover the second attempt, with Alex Erickson dropping on the ball near midfield.

Jamerson himself fumbled the opening kickoff in the third quarter, forcing the Badgers to start on their own 9, while also committing a penalty on a punt return in the second half. However, he averaged 41.7 yards on his three returns on Saturday.

More importantly, the Ocala, Fla. native was a member of the kickoff and punt coverage units that shined in defending Likely. The dangerous returner was more potent on the offensive side of the ball, rushing for 56 yards on three carries, but was held to 18.3 yards per kickoff return, with his only punt return going for -1 yards.

In a game sloppily played at times by both the offense and defense, the Badgers were the team who stepped up in that all too important third phase of the game.

“We did enough things that made it harder than we would have liked to, but I thought guys just kept playing,” said Chryst. “It’s all a part of the story that makes up the game.”

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