LINCOLN — The Nebraska defense was a bit shorthanded Saturday against Wisconsin.
The Huskers were without injured senior defensive linemen Carlos Davis and Darrion Daniels. That’s not a good situation to be in when you’re facing a team like No. 15 Wisconsin that likes to run the ball right at you.
And the Badgers did just that. Junior running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 204 yards on 25 carries in Wisconsin’s 37-21 victory over the Huskers.
The Badgers remained in the race for the Big Ten West title at 8-2 overall and 5-2 in Big Ten play. The Huskers fell to 4-6 and 2-5.
“I thought again at times they did well and then there was a couple of breakdowns here and there,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said of the defense. “If you’re ahead of a team like that, good things are going to happen. You put them in a game they don’t want to be in. We had chances to be ahead in the game.”
The Huskers definitely missed some tackles on defense. Defensive back Dicaprio Bootle said he missed his share of them.
“One play I think they threw a screen out to the boundary,” Bootle said. “Another play, came down to tackle the running back, he kind of slipped off of me. Another play, they caught the ball in the middle of the field, I turned around, extended my arms, he bounced off of me and went on for a touchdown.”
That was a 55-yard TD pass from Jack Coan to A.J. Taylor that gave Wisconsin a 17-14 lead with 6:39 left in the first half.
“We work on tackling every week,” senior defensive tackle Khalil Davis said. “I thought we were good at tackling sometimes. There were just a couple of plays where we were poor and didn’t really tackle very well. That’s just on us. We’ve got to make a tackle and bring them down.”
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Casey Rogers said the Huskers knew what was coming from the Badgers.
“It’s always going to be physical when you’re playing Wisconsin,” Rogers said. “I think the one thing that was happening with a little bit was our tackling it wasn’t the greatest. I think the first couple drives it was fine, and then we got to one drive just went for a touchdown and that can’t happen. That’s something we’re going to fix. That’s something Nebraska is not going to be known for is missing tackles.”
With Carlos Davis and Daniels out of the game, the Huskers had to turn to some younger players up front like Rogers and true freshman Ty Robinson who saw their most extensive action of the season.
“Ty did awesome,” Rogers said. “He was out there for the first time today and it was really good to see that because you know that’s something that is worth experiencing against a Big Ten team like that. I think it showed him what he can do and now he knows what to expect.”
Junior college transfer Keem Green saw some action and sophomore defensive lineman Deontre Thomas made his presence felt with four total tackles on the day.
“They were doing a good job,” senior linebacker Mohamed Barry said of the young linemen. “I didn’t notice the difference out there. They did their part. The biggest thing was us communicating to them when it got loud in our stadium. Going down there and make sure they jump over and stop the gaps, that’s how we helped them out. They did a really good job. Ty Robinson as you all know will be a good player and Keem Green also.”
And even though Carlos Davis and Daniels didn’t play, they still helped out as much as they could.
“They did a great job of giving us the keys, what was going on, what to do here, what to do there,” Rogers said. “It’s just another set of eyes really, another two coaches, which is really nice, especially when things get a little chaotic sometimes throughout the game.”
The defense may have played better than the score indicates. The Huskers gave up the long pass play for a touchdown. The Badgers also scored on a kickoff return by Aron Cruickshank and got a field goal after an interception deep in Nebraska territory late in the first half.
“I feel like people were playing more free,” said Barry, who had 12 tackles for the game. “I could feel the energy. It’s been a long time since I truly felt it. I felt for myself that I played free this game, that I was flying around, that I understood even the greatest players make mistakes, and just make more plays than mistakes, make the critical plays. I think that’s what a lot of players were doing.”