Nebraska pushed No. 19 Wisconsin to the limit before falling, 35-28, Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium
The Huskers (3-8) trailed by seven following Braelon Allen’s 53-yard touchdown run with 3:50 remaining, but Nebraska made one final drive. Adrian Martinez completed four straight passes before a pass interference call put the ball at the Wisconsin 11-yard line. After a holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 21, three straight incomplete passes set up a controversial fourth down play. Martinez threw toward Zavier Betts, who looked to be interfered with but no call was made, and the Badgers held on to keep their Big Ten West Division hopes alive
While the matchup featured two of the Big Ten’s best defenses, it was the offenses which put on a show, as the two teams combined for nearly 850 yards.
Martinez completed 23-of-35 passes for a season-high 351 yards, his highest passing total since throwing for a career-high 384 yards at Wisconsin in 2018. In all, Nebraska gashed the Badgers’ top ranked defense for 452 yards, more than double UW’s average of 216.3 yards per game.
It was a part of a record-setting day for both Martinez, who became Nebraska’s all-time leader in total yardage, and Austin Allen, who hauled in seven catches for 143 yards. Allen’s 143 yards on Saturday were the most ever by a Husker tight end, while he upped his season total to 36 catches, breaking the school mark for catches by a tight end in a season which had stood since 1978.
It may have been enough if not for the heroics of Wisconsin’s running back Braelon Allen, who rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns, including scoring runs of 71 and 53 yards. In all, Wisconsin totaled 252 yards on the ground against the Blackshirts.
Nebraska got off to an auspicious start on the opening kickoff, as Stephen Bracey took the short kickoff at the 9-yard line, broke a couple of tackles and raced 91 yards for a score to put the Badgers up 7-0 just 13 seconds into the contest.
The Huskers responded quickly, marching 74 yards in five plays to even the score at seven. Martinez set the tone early, finding Samori Toure for 42 yards on the opening play before a 27-yard completion to Toure two plays later got the ball to the Wisconsin 8-yard line. Markese Stepp thought he had a touchdown on the next play, but the call was reversed, and the ball was put at the 1-yard line. Stepp would not
be denied and scored on the next play to tie the game at seven.
Toure finished with seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in posting his fifth 100-yard game, a total which tied NU’s single-season record for 100 yards games in a season.
Wisconsin would drive into Husker territory on the next drive, getting to the NU 33, but Graham Mertz’s fourth-down pass was broken up by Cam Taylor-Britt. NU continued to march on offense against the stout Wisconsin defense, getting the ball to the Badger 31 after a 17-yard pass from Martinez to Vokolek. The Huskers’ could not sustain the drive and were forced to punt.
Wisconsin would extend the lead to 14-7 late the first quarter, as Allen broke free on a 3rd-and-1 play and went 71 yards for a touchdown.
The Huskers had a golden opportunity on its next drive, marching 75 yards to get the ball deep in Wisconsin territory. NU had 1st-and-10 on the Badger 14 and got eight yards from Brody Belt, but could not get the first down. On fourth-and-2 at the UW 6, Martinez tried to find Austin Allen, but Scott Nelson broke up the pass in the end zone to thwart the Husker drive.
The Blackshirts forced a three-and-out on Wisconsin’s next possess and got the ball back at the Wisconsin 33-yard line. The Huskers would take advantage, going 33 yards in eight plays, as Martinez found Toure for a 4-yard touchdown pass to knot the score at 14.
Wisconsin forced a turnover on the Huskers’ opening drive of the second half, as Martinez’s pass to Oliver Martin was picked off by Collin Wilder and returned 40 yards to the Nebraska 33-yard line. The Badgers would capitalize, scoring four players later as Graham Mertz found Kendric Pryor for a 17-yard touchdown to give the Badgers a 21-14 lead.
Mertz completed 12-of-18 passes for 145 yards and a score.
Nebraska would answer right back, going 75 yards in 11 plays to even the score at 21 following a Martinez 1-yard touchdown run. Martinez went 5-of-6 on the drive, with all five passes getting first downs, including a seven-yard pass to Allen on third and six. Three plays later, the Husker tight end hauled in a 22-yard pass to the UW 1-yard line before Martinez hit paydirt on the next play.
Wisconsin regained the lead at 28-21 on Allen’s second touchdown of the day, this time from three yards out, to cap an eight-play drive. UW’s passing attack delivered a pair of key plays, including a 28-yard pass to Pryor on third-and-3 before finding Jake Ferguson for another first down to the NU 30. Allen’s next carry went for 22 yards before he scored three plays later.
After a Husker turnover gave Wisconsin the ball near midfield, the Blackshirts came up big to keep NU in the game. Wisconsin had second-and-five at the Huskers 36, but a costly penalty pushed the Badgers back five yards. Mertz found Ferguson for nine yards on third-and-10, but Luke Reimer stuffed Jon Chenal for a one-yard loss on fourth down.
Nebraska was on the march and faced third-and-13 at the NU 44 after a penalty wiped out a 33-yard run by Marvin Scott. Martinez found Allen for 11 yards to make it 4th-and-2 at the UW 45 before keeping the drive alive by finding Allen on a 38-yard catch and run to the Badger 7-yard line. Scott would tie it up two plays later with a three-yard run with 6:27 left.
Wisconsin went to work, as Allen had three straight rushes for 15 yards before he broke free two plays later on a 53-yard scoring run to give Wisconsin the lead for good.
The Huskers will conclude the 2021 season with the Scheels Heroes Game against Iowa on Friday, Nov. 26. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m.