Last week’s contest saw a game where Wisconsin clearly looked to be the better football team, yet the game ended with the Badgers winning by only eight points. Returning to Camp Randall tomorrow, Wisconsin faces its fifth top-10 opponent this season and fourth in five games with No.7 Nebraska. The Huskers are off to its best start in 15 years with their 7-0 record and, despite having not played a top-20 team this season, have shot up the nationally rankings.
As Nebraska’s first test of the season approaches and the Badgers look for another statement win, it’s time to take a closer look at Nebraska.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong is the heart and soul of the Huskers. The senior has been a threat on the offensive side of the ball, whether that be on the ground or through the air. Having thrown for 1,611 yards this season and completed 103 of his 186 attempted passes (a so-so 55.4 percent), Armstrong is a proven scorer with his 11 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns. He averages 15.6 yards per completion and 230.1 yards per game but has thrown five interceptions this year.
Nebraska’s receiving corps is expected to get a boost this weekend with the return of Jordan Westerkamp, who has missed the last two games with a back injury. To what extent or how effective he’ll be is unknown, but Westerkamp is the fourth ranked receiver in program history in regards to receptions and yards for a reason. He also leads the Huskers with four receiving touchdowns.
Senior Alonzo Moore has stepped up in Westerkamp’s absence and leads the team in receiving yards with 324 and is averaging 24.9 yards per catch. Stanley Morgan a sophomore, leads the team in receptions with 18 and is second in yards with 271, while being an imposing target. Brandon Reilly (23.0 yards per catch) and De'Mornay Pierson-El (14.4) have also made big plays.
Senior running back Terrell Newby is a stud at running back and is just one side of Nebraska’s three-headed threat on the ground along with sophomore tailback Devine Ozigbo and the aforementioned Armstrong. Newby leads the team in carries (103) and rushing yards (511) while being second overall in rushing scores with four. He is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 73.0 yards per game. Armstrong is second with 380 yards, and Ozigbo has added 320 yards and four scores but has been banged up.
Once again the Badgers face a defensive group that is solid in the front seven and active, which has proven to cause offenses some trouble.
Junior defensive end Ross Dzuris will be on the mind of Wisconsin’s quarterbacks considering the talented edge rusher leads Nebraska with 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss. Not to be forgotten, senior nose tackle Kevin Maurice has displayed his athleticism this season getting to the quarterback and has three sacks. The front seven limits foes to 124.4 rushing yards per game, the No. 4 mark in the Big Ten, as linebackers Dedrick Young (42 tackles, three TFLs) and Josh Banderas (43 tackles) make a ton of plays.
The Huskers’ main weaknesses is the secondary and a disciplined offense could find favorable matchups against them. While Nebraska has intercepted 13 passes, fifth nationally, the Huskers are 10th in the Big Ten in passing yards allowed 218.4 yards per game. That’s still an improvement from a group that gave up 290.5 a year ago.
Junior safety Kieron Williams leads the team in solo tackles (30), total tackles (47) and interceptions (four), while Nathan Gerry is about as athletic as they come with 43 tackles and seven TFLs. The interceptions from this group are balanced: Williams (4), nickel cornerback Aaron Williams (3), safety Chris Jones (3), Gerry (2) and cornerback Josh Kalu (1). Nebraska is +85 in scoring in the fourth quarter and this group’s play-making ability is the reason why.