It was early in the Nebraska-Wisconsin game Saturday night in Madison. Just a couple of minutes in, BTN play-by-play announcer Kevin Kugler said, “It’s Wisconsin doing Wisconsin things.”
Now that first Wisconsin drive didn’t result in a touchdown. It bogged down inside the Husker 30 and Rafael Gaglianone booted 30-yard field goal with 7:08 left in the first quarter.
That first drive was 15 plays, covered 63 yards and took 7:52 off the clock.
That is Wisconsin doing Wisconsin things.
And then Nebraska had its chance to do Nebraska things.
The Huskers did just that — at least Nebraska things that have been happening all year.
A nice first-down play, then a penalty. Fourth down and another five-yard penalty, and then Wisconsin’s Jack Dunn returned a punt 15 yards to the Wisconsin 45.
Nebraska doing Nebraska things. Wisconsin doing Wisconsin things.
Three-and-out on Nebraska’s next possession, a 23-yard punt and the Badgers were back in business on the 50.
Wisconsin held just a 3-0 lead after the first 15 minutes of play, but the Badgers had six first downs to just one for the Huskers, had 106 total years to just 26 for Nebraska and controlled the ball for 12:19.
That’s Wisconsin doing Wisconsin things again.
It was 20-3 by the time the half rolled around. By that point, the Badgers had controlled the ball for 19:08 compared to 10:52 for the Huskers.
Eventually the Badgers would win the game 41-24. That’s more proof that the Huskers have a ways to go before they can go toe-to-toe with a team like Wisconsin.
Wisconsin A.D. Barry Alvarez would understand. He talked earlier this week about his first Badger team that went 1-10 in 1990.
Players that didn’t fit in to his culture left the program. That’s what’s happening to Frost and the Huskers right now.
Eventually the culture Alvarez was building took hold, and the Badgers have been good year in and year out since then.
Alvarez was 118-73-4 in his 16 seasons as head coach before moving up to the A.D. position. He hired Bret Bielema who went 68-24 before Gary Anderson took over in 2014.
Anderson left after two seasons, and Paul Chryst got the call from Alvarez.
No matter who the coach has been, the Badgers have played the same way and used the same formula for success that Alvarez established back in the 1990s.
Frost’s formula is different than what the Badgers’ use, but he’s looking for the same type of results. But, as he told us in the off season, it’s not going to happen over night.
There was a moment of hope early in the second half when the Huskers finally made a big play on offense. Less than a minute into the third quarter, Adrian Martinez found J.D. Spielman for a 75-yard touchdown. That was easily the longest play of the season for the Husker offense.
But then the defense needed to make a play, and that didn’t happen. Instead, aided by yet another facemask penalty, Wisconsin drove right down the field for another touchdown and a 27-10 lead.
A Martinez fumble on the next possession was recovered by the Badgers, and away they went. Six plays and 59 yards later, it was 34-10 and it was all over.
We did see some good things from the Huskers. The offense once gain flashed that potential to do some special things.
Martinez — with his 384 yards passing — is a star in the making, if he isn’t already. So is Maurice Washington. Spielman is definitely a star with his school record 209 yards on 10 catches.
Oh, but those penalties. Ten more for 100 yards, and several of those negated good offensive plays by the Huskers.
The Huskers will win another game sometime. They can’t keep piling up 500-yard games without breaking through with a win — unless they keep piling up the penalties too. That has to be fixed.
They will try again next week when they play at Northwestern, a team that upset Michigan State on the road Saturday.
That won’t be an easy one either.
Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.