A preview of Wisconsin, the first trip to Camp Randall Stadium of the Scott Frost era.
Offensive yards per play: 6.70 (tied 19th nationally)
Defensive yards per play: 5.52 (tied 74th)
Turnover margin: plus-4 (tied 20th)
Penalty yards per game: 52.5 (tied 53rd)
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Paul Chryst (37-8 at Wisconsin)
Like the coach he’s facing this weekend, Chryst is leading his alma mater after playing quarterback in college. Given his first break by a former Nebraska coach — Mike Riley hired him with the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football in 1991 — Chryst rose through the ranks while developing a reputation as a bright offensive mind. He coordinated Wisconsin’s offense from 2005 through 2011, then spent three years as Pittsburgh’s coach before returning to Madison in 2015. All he’s done since is win 23 of 27 league games — not to mention consecutive Big Ten West Division titles — while earning the last two Big Ten coach of the year honors.
The Badger attack generally hasn’t dominated statistically under Chryst and Rudolph, producing average units in terms of points and yards per game. What the duo has done, however, is put Wisconsin among the top five teams in the country in time of possession every year they’ve been leading their alma mater — their 35:02 average this season is seventh — and helped the defense in the process. Rudolph also coaches UW’s offensive line, which landed three All-Americans last year, while receivers coach Ted Gilmore is passing game coordinator in addition to being receivers coach. Rudolph (2007, tight ends) and Gilmore (2005-10, receivers) made coaching stops at Nebraska.
Coordinator: Jim Leonhard
The move appeared bold to outsiders last year when Chryst promoted Leonhard — who had no previous coaching experience at any level prior to 2016 — to lead Wisconsin’s defensive unit. But the former UW All-America defensive back and 10-year NFL player thrived in his first season in the role, with his unit ranking second nationally in total defense, third in scoring defense and No. 1 in pass efficiency. Leonhard was a finalist for the Broyles Award (given to the country’s top assistant) and was in talks with schools like Alabama, Florida State and Texas A&M for a coordinator job in the offseason before the 35-year old decided to stay home. His 3-4 scheme emphasizes playmakers, particularly at linebacker.
Players to watch
Jonathan Taylor, running back: The former three-star recruit from New Jersey broke out last year, topping Adrian Peterson’s FBS freshman rushing record (1,977 yards) and finishing sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Boasting a downhill running style, Taylor has topped 100 yards rushing in all four games this season and averages 157 per outing. Wisconsin isn’t afraid to ride the 5-foot-11, 221-pound sophomore, evidenced by his 33 carries for 253 yards against New Mexico last month. Though not heavily involved in the passing game — five catches for 20 yards — Taylor is dangerous in short-yardage spots and can house a carry at any moment.
T.J. Edwards, linebacker: Equipped with the kind of frame (6-1, 242) and motor in the mold of past Wisconsin linebacking greats, the senior captain has a pick and pair of QB hurries to go with his 19 tackles. A four-year starter, he considered turning pro after his 81-tackle, four-interception season last fall but returned this year as a preseason first-team All-American.
They said it
“You plan on each week, getting that team’s best shot. You see what they’re capable of being and that’s a really good football team. You watch the film and you can see it. Whatever’s happened before doesn’t matter.” Chryst on throwing out Nebraska’s 0-4 record
13: Times in 16 red-zone possessions that Wisconsin has scored a touchdown. The 81.25 touchdown percentage is 10th in the country.
7:19: The gap between Wisconsin’s average time of possession and Nebraska’s. The Badgers (35:02) are seventh nationally in the category while the Huskers (27:43) are 104th.
Five: Straight games won by the Badgers in the series. Nebraska has been outscored 213-110 across those contests.
Aug. 31 Western Kentucky, W 34-3
Sept. 8 New Mexico, W 45-14
Sept. 22 at Iowa, W 28-17
Jan. 1, 1964: Nebraska defeated Auburn 13-7 in the Orange Bowl. “It was true what they said about Nebraska being a big, strong and resourceful football team,” Miami Herald sports editor Jimmy Burns wrote after the game. “The Cornhuskers lived up to that reputation here.”
Jan. 2, 1967: Alabama defeated Nebraska 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl. It was the worst defeat suffered by Nebraska since Oklahoma topped Bob Devaney’s first Husker squad, 34-6, in 1962. Nebraska quarterback Bob Churchich did set a then-NU passing record with 21 completions.
Dec. 20, 1969: Nebraska defeated Georgia 45-6 in the Sun Bowl. “Nebraska’s mean Cornhuskers kicked the Georgia Bulldog to death in the first quarter Saturday,” then-World-Herald sports editor Wally Provost wrote. The Huskers had six interceptions and recovered two fumbles in the rout.
Jan. 1, 1973: Nebraska defeated Notre Dame 40-6 in the Orange Bowl. The win marked the final game in coach Bob Devaney’s career. “A golden era in Cornhuskerdom ended late Monday night in the sauna bath-like heat of the Orange Bowl with the man who made it all possible riding high on the shoulders of his players,” The World-Herald’s Tom Allan wrote. “And riding even higher in the hearts of all Nebraskans.”
Jan. 1, 1974: Nebraska knocked off Texas 19-3 in the Cotton Bowl. Steve Runty, who was playing his final game, waited through a redshirt season and three more years as a substitute before finally getting his chance in the second half against the Longhorns. The Huskers broke a 3-3 tie and outscored Texas 16-0 with Runty under center.
Dec. 26, 1975: Arizona State defeated Nebraska 17-14 in the Fiesta Bowl. Dan Kush, son of ASU coach Frank Kush, was given playing time after his mom “threatened” the coach. It worked, as the kicker connected on three field goals, including the game-winner from 29-yards out with 4:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Dec. 30, 1976: Nebraska defeated Texas Tech 27-24 in the Astro-Blue Bonnet Bowl. Husker defensive lineman Ron Pruitt stripped the ball from Red Raider quarterback Rodney Allison in the closing seconds, and Reg Gast recovered to clinch the NU victory.
The Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl
Jan. 1, 1982: Clemson defeated Nebraska 22-15 in the Orange Bowl to claim the national championship. Roger Craig’s 26-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion in the fourth quarter cut the Tigers’ lead from 22-7, but NU couldn’t finish the comeback.
Jan. 1, 1986: Nebraska lost to Michigan 27-23 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Huskers had more rushing yards (304-171), more passing yards (66-63), more return yards (20-3), more time of possession (32:01 to 27:59) and a better ratio of third-down conversions (7 of 17 to 4 of 14), but also had four turnovers to Michigan’s none.
Jan. 1, 1988: Florida State topped Nebraska 31-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. Nebraska I-back Tyreese Knox’s fumble at the Florida State 3-yard line kept the Huskers from turning a 28-24 lead into an 11-point edge with 6:58 left in the game, and FSU quarterback Danny McManus finished a 97-yard, game-winning drive with a 15-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal.
Jan. 1, 1995: Nebraska claimed the national championship with a 24-17 win over Miami in the Orange Bowl. Fullback Cory Schlesinger scored two touchdowns in the final eight minutes. Miami had one last gasp, but Kareem Moss intercepted a pass to clinch the title for Nebraska.
Jan. 2, 1996: Nebraska claimed its second consecutive national championship by defeating Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl. Tommie Frazier ran 16 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns, and completed 6 of 14 passes for 105 yards and another score.
Jan. 2, 1998: Nebraska won its third national title in four seasons by defeating Tennessee 42-17 in the Orange Bowl. The Huskers entered the game neck-and-neck with Michigan to claim the national title. Said defensive tackle Jason Peter: “Don’t give it to Michigan because they haven’t seen the national title in 45 years. Give it to us because we’re the best team in the country.”
Jan. 3, 2002: Nebraska was “blown away” by Miami in the national championship. The Hurricanes won 37-14. When coupled with Nebraska’s prior loss to Colorado, it marked the first time NU had lost back-to-back games since 1990.
Jan. 1, 2009: Bo Pelini won nine games in his first year as Nebraska’s coach by defeating Clemson 26-21 in the Gator Bowl. With the Tigers at the NU 10-yard line, the Husker defense stepped up. Nebraska batted down a pass, pushed Clemson back 16 yards with a sack and forced back-to-back incompletions to clinch the game.
Dec. 30, 2009: Nebraska defeated Arizona 33-0 in the Holiday Bowl. Nebraska limited Arizona’s pass-happy attack to 109 yards and six first downs, pitching its first postseason shutout, the first in 14 years of Big 12 bowl-game history and the first in Holiday Bowl history.