Sports

Badgers take down Huskers 41-24 to retain Freedom Trophy

Outside linebacker Zach Baun recovered a fumble early in the second half to stop Nebraska's momentum and set up a Wisconsin touchdown drive that put the Badgers up by 24.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

The Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-3 Big Ten, 0-5 overall) came into Madison without a victory since Oct. 28, 2017, including an opening four losses in 2018 under new head coach Scott Frost. The Cornhuskers’ trip to Camp Randall changed none of that as they fell to the Wisconsin Badgers (2-0 Big Ten, 4-1 overall) 41-24.

The Badgers jumped up to an early 3-0 lead to open the game — the first time they’ve scored on their opening drive this season. Running back Garrett Groshek started his busy day with a 3-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Nebraska 42-yard line, running from the wildcat formation. After a pair of incompletions from Alex Hornibrook, senior kicker Rafael Gaglianone’s 30-yard field goal was good.

Wisconsin's defense forced Nebraska to punt on their opening two drives, and after punting on its second drive, UW was once again forced to punt after a 9-play, 41-yard drive —  highlighted by an A.J. Taylor 15-yard catch — was stopped short of the end zone. Gaglianone was perfect from the spot again, giving the Badgers a 6-0 lead.

Nebraska answered Wisconsin’s scoring drive with a field goal of their own, which capped off a 10 play, 61-yard drive. The Badgers had forced a third and 16, but Adrian Martinez found Stanley Morgan for a 25-yard catch. Andrew Van Ginkel made his first appearance on the drive and hurried Martinez on third-and-6, forcing the Cornhuskers to settle for a field goal.

UW’s offense found the missing ingredient in the second quarter, finding the end zone on both of their drives. After true freshman Aron Cruickshank set up great field position with a 35-yard kickoff return that was one missed tackle away from going the distance, Hornibrook and sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor combined to lead the Badgers on a drive that Taylor capped with a 3-yard touchdown rush.

After another stalled Nebraska drive gave the Badgers good field position, Wisconsin decided to unleash Groshek. The sophomore broke multiple tackles on his way to a 24-yard run, followed by a 9-yard catch and another 7 yards on a rush. After three straight plays of Groshek, Jake Ferguson caught a 14-yard touchdown, giving UW a 20-3 lead.

JD Spielman gave the Cornhuskers life momentarily as he opened the second half as he took a slant 75 yards for a touchdown, cutting UW’s lead to 20-10. Scott Nelson fell down in coverage for the Badgers.

That life was quickly cut short as a 12-yard third down conversion from Danny Davis set up another Taylor touchdown run. 

Senior defensive lineman Olive Sagapolu recovered a Nebraska fumble on the next drive, giving the Badgers offense the ball on its own 41-yard line. Amid “Let’s Go Brewers” chants from the student section, senior running back Taiwan Deal ran for a 20-yard touchdown, giving the Badgers a 34-10 lead midway through the third quarter.

An impressive scramble and 12-yard touchdown throw from Martinez cut the lead to 34-17 and kept the Huskers tenuously in the game. After a Badgers punt, Martinez got the Cornhuskers moving on offense. The Nebraska quarterback found receiver Maurice Washington for 33 yards down the right sideline, where Scott Nelson was flagged for targeting. After replay confirmed the call, Nelson was ejected, and he will also miss the first half next week at Michigan. After a pair of dropped interceptions from the Badgers’ secondary, T.J. Edwards sacked Martinez for a loss of 7, forcing a punt.

Jonathan Taylor did what he did best, breaking big runs, as he took an 88-yard run to the house to give UW a 41-17 lead, putting the nail in the Cornhusker coffin.

Martinez, who had a solid night with 441 total yards and three touchdowns, capped off his night with a 7-yard scamper around D’Cota Dixon for a touchdown.

UW honored the 1993 Rose Bowl team at halftime and welcomed them back home with a 41-24 Freedom Trophy victory.  

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