head coach Paul Chryst walks off the field after an NCAA
college football game against Iowa Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015,
in Madison, Wis. Iowa won 10-6.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska knows
what's coming and believes it's ready.
The Cornhuskers knew last year,
too, but definitely weren't prepared for Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon
to run for an FBS-record 408 yards and four touchdowns in a
demoralizing 35-point loss in Madison.
There's a new coaching staff at
Nebraska, and defensive coordinator Mark Banker's unit has been
among the best in the nation at stopping the run so far. These
Huskers have yet to see the style of power running game Wisconsin
presents, and fans still cringe when reminded of the 581 and 539
yards rushing Nebraska allowed the last two times the teams met.
Gordon has moved on to the NFL, top
running back Corey Clement is still out recovering from sports
hernia surgery and the Wisconsin offensive line isn't as imposing
as some in the past. Alabama and Iowa beat the Badgers by all but
shutting down their ground game.
The Huskers (2-3, 0-1) hope to do
the same Saturday when Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) visits in a key Big
Ten West game.
"I'd say this defense is built
to stop any team, but yes, I think that our defense may be
especially suited for this type of offense," defensive end
Jack Gangwish said. "Wisconsin has a very smash-mouth
approach to football. They're going to run the ball straight at
you. There's not a whole lot that's really fancy about what they
wide receiver Geronimo Allison (8) makes a touchdown catch
while Nebraska defensive back Chris Jones (8) defends during
the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday,
Oct. 3, 2015, in Champaign, Ill. Illinois won 14-13.
Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale
will share the carries, and quarterback Joel Stave will use
play-action to try to exploit a vulnerable Nebraska secondary.
Both teams are looking to rebound
following disappointing losses. The Huskers are off to their worst
start since 1959 after Illinois drove the field in the last minute
to pull out a 14-13 win. Stave committed four turnovers in a 10-6
loss at home to Iowa.
"We've got to do a better job
of continuing to help coach our guys and help them grow. And we
get that opportunity this week, and that's what's fun — and with
a group that wants to get better, a group that wants to be
coached," first-year Badgers coach Paul Chryst said.
Some things to watch as the teams
battle for the Freedom Trophy:
RILEY-CHRYST REUNION: Wisconsin's
Chryst and Nebraska's Mike Riley have a history dating to 1991.
Riley hired Chryst as an assistant on the team he coached in the
old World League of American Football, and Chryst also was his
aide at Oregon State and with the San Diego Chargers.
head coach Mike Riley walks the sidelines during the first
half of an NCAA college football game against Illinois
Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Champaign, Ill. Illinois won
"I think one of the things
that we both have in common is we respect the game and truly
respect those that play it, and our job is to help them play
it," Chryst said. "So I don't feel like it's me against
D-LINE SHUFFLE: Nebraska remains
short-handed on the defensive line. Tackles Vincent Valentine and
Kevin Williams have been battling injuries, and fellow tackle
Kevin Maurice is out four weeks with a stress fracture after
making his first start last week. End Greg McMullen probably will
move inside, at least part-time, and line up alongside Maliek
Collins. Gangwish and Freedom Akinmoladun would then be the
WISCONSIN INJURIES: TE Austin
Traylor, who hurt an arm and shoulder late in the Iowa game, had
surgery Monday and was not listed on this week's depth chart. He's
the third tight end to be injured. Also, WR Alex Erickson was
being treated for a concussion this week. His status was
DEFENSE ON A ROLL: Since losing
35-17 to Alabama, Wisconsin has held four straight opponents to 10
points or fewer. That's the third-longest run of its kind in
NEBRASKA-WISCONSIN TIES: Badgers
athletic director Barry Alvarez played linebacker for the Huskers
from 1965-67 and coached high school football in Nebraska in the
1970s. Wisconsin assistants Ted Gilmore was on Nebraska's staff
from 2005-10 and Joe Rudolph in 2007.