MADISON – The Wisconsin Badgers secondary couldn’t have been much more depleted than it was leaving Saturday’s game against Nebraska, and it meant true freshmen such as Rachad Wildgoose and Donte Burton were getting some extended introductions.
At one point, both were on the field in the fourth quarter of Wisconsin’s 41-24 victory over Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium in a game where the secondary took a beating. Consider:
- Safety D’Cota Dixon landed awkwardly on his right foot late in the game and was taken into the sideline tent for evaluation.
- Scott Nelson was disqualified in the second half for targeting and will have to sit out the first half of next week’s game at Michigan.
- Sophomore cornerback Caesar Williams did not play with a leg injury.
- His replacement, redshirt freshman Deron Harrell, left with a head injury early in the game and did not return.
- Sophomore Eric Burrell needed his left pinkie wrapped after the game when the ball clipped him on the final defensive play of the night.
- Redshirt freshman Faion Hicks, who played most of the night, has a thumb ligament injury and came into the game questionable to play.
“A lot of guys played, and it wasn’t always pretty,” head coach Paul Chryst said.
Madison Cone, one of the few members of the secondary not impacted by injury or disqualification, recorded five tackles, and Nelson had five of his own with a forced fumble before he departed, though he also fell down on a 75-yard pass play across the middle that went for a Nebraska touchdown.
Containing quarterback Adrian Martinez would have been difficult even at full strength. He wound up throwing for 384 yards and two touchdowns.
“It makes it a little tough, guys come in and have to catch the rhythm of the game, but I feel like we stayed calm and didn’t panic,” Hicks said. “I was limited a little bit, but I still did my job. … The quarterback did a good job getting out of the pocket, extending plays. That was a big part of their offense today. Going forward, I think we’ll be fine.”
Hicks was also impressed with Wildgoose.
“He played a big role in the game,” Hicks said. “I thought he did a good job. He’s going to learn from it, and I’m excited for him. He had a great week of practice, and going forward we knew we would kind of need him, and he stepped up.”
BOX SCORE: Wisconsin 41, Nebraska 24
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Week 6 scoreboard, box scores, standings
Wildgoose said brief stints on the field earlier in the season helped prepare him for the extended work Saturday.
“I knew I was the next guy up,” Wildgoose said. “Honestly, I was ready for it.
“Covering a guy for 9 seconds is kind of hard,” he added, referring to Martinez’s ability to extend plays. “There’s really nothing you can work on if you’ve got to cover for 9 seconds.”
History for Gaglianone: Rafael Gaglianone hit two short field goals in the first half for No. 64 and 65 in his Badgers career, tying him for the most in school history.
“I think it will be in the future when I get to look back. It’s one of those things I can share with my kids and my friends,” he said. “As for right now, I’m just trying to help my team as much as I can. It definitely means something. When you come to the university, you just want to leave your mark and to do your job to the best of your abilities. To be up there with some of the best guys to do it, that means a lot.”
Gaglianone will look to break the tie with Todd Gregoire (1984-’87) next week at Michigan.
“All the guys who did it with me – snap, hold, protection – we all did it together to get to this point. It’s a group record, for sure.”
Straight ahead: To contain Martinez, the Badgers looked to employ more of a straight pass rush instead of working around the edges.
“He’s a slippery dude, he’s quick, and just containing him was a big emphasis this week,” linebacker Zack Baun said.
Martinez helped Nebraska generate more than 500 yards of offense, so it may not have been an obvious win. But T.J. Edwards did log two sacks for a pass rush that had just three sacks all season coming into the battle.
“I think there were some times where we got some pressure on them but not finishing the rush,” Chryst said. “A couple times we did, and those were huge plays. This will be good tape to learn from, and obviously there’s areas where we can improve defensively.”
Targeting call: Badgers personnel weren’t badmouthing the targeting call on Nelson that merited an ejection in the second half.
“Those are tough for the players, and everyone understands the rule and we all are in favor,” Chryst said. “It’s a violent game and you want to keep everyone as safe as possible. You’re talking about things that happen in a short time … everyone will learn from it.”
Added Edwards, “It is unfortunate with Scott Nelson, but it happens. I thought that the next guy in did really well. They were filling in and rotating in, so I’m not too worried. We have faith in just about anyone who is out on that field.”
Everything comes up Roses: The game served as a chance to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1993 Badgers team that defeated UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Two of that team’s staples, Joe Panos and Lamark Shackerford, served as honorary captains, and more than 70 players and coaches were on hand to be recognized at halftime.
Since the 1993 team, the Badgers brand has sustained success. In the 25 seasons since, UW has a 232-91-4 record, a .716 winning percentage that marks the seventh best in the nation and trailing only Ohio State in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin went 1 for 6 in bowl games before 1993. In the past 25 years, UW has played in 23 bowl games (third-most in the country) and won 14.