Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez and sophomore wide receiver JD Spielman produced record-setting performances, but the Nebraska football team came up short in a 41-24 loss at No. 16 Wisconsin on Saturday night in Camp Randall Stadium.
Martinez amassed a Nebraska freshman-record 441 yards of total offense, including a career-high and Husker freshman-record 384 passing yards. He completed 24-of-42 passes and threw two touchdown strikes. He added 57 yards rushing on 13 attempts to give him the fourth-best single-game offensive total in Husker history. It marked his second straight game with more than 400 yards of total offense.
Spielman’s record-setting night made an all-time dent in the Big Red record book, as he hauled in nine receptions for a school-record 209 yards, surpassing his 200-yard receiving game against Ohio State as a freshman last season. His 75-yard touchdown reception to open the third quarter was Nebraska’s longest play of the season and pulled the Huskers to within 20-10 after trailing by 17 points at the half. Spielman owns the only two 200-yard receiving games in Husker history.
Less than halfway through his sophomore season, Spielman has already climbed to No. 14 on Nebraska’s career receiving yardage list with 1,291 yards.
Husker senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. just missed a 100-yard receiving game, hauling in a career-high-matching eight receptions for 93 yards, giving him 17 straight games with three or more catches.
As a team, Nebraska rolled up more than 500 total yards as a team for the third time in five games this season. The Huskers finished with 518 total yards, including 407 passing. However, Nebraska could not contain the Wisconsin running game, as the Badgers rolled up 370 yards on the ground on their way to 533 total yards. Wisconsin improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten, while Nebraska slipped to 0-5 and 0-3 in the conference.
Jonathan Taylor led the Badgers with 221 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries, including an 88-yard touchdown to cap the scoring for Wisconsin early in the fourth quarter. Taiwan Deal added 74 yards on 10 carries with another score, and Garrett Groshek pitched in 73 yards on nine carries. Alex Hornibrook added 163 yards on 13-of-24 passing. Tight end Jake Ferguson hauled in four receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown, while AJ Taylor added three catches for a team-high 60 receiving yards.
Nebraska’s defense bent but didn’t break in a low-scoring first quarter, holding Wisconsin to just a field goal on its opening drive. The Badgers controlled the ball in the first quarter, but went to the second quarter with just a 3-0 lead.
Wisconsin added a second short Rafael Gaglianone field goal early in the second quarter to take a 6-0 lead, before Nebraska marched into scoring position on its next drive. The Huskers went 61 yards in 10 plays but were unable to punch the ball across the goal line and settled for a 31-yard Barret Pickering field goal to cut the Badger lead to 6-3 with 9:55 left in the first half.
Wisconsin answered with a six-play, 64-yard drive that was capped by Taylor’s three-yard plunge to push the margin to 13-3 with 6:51 left in the half.
On the ensuing drive, Martinez moved the Huskers to the Wisconsin 31, but a pair of penalties and a sack sent the Huskers back, and a 4th-and-11 pass from Martinez to Maurice Washington fell incomplete to give the Badgers the ball back with 2:13 left in the half. Wisconsin capitalized on the opportunity and Hornibrook’s 14-yard pass to Jake Ferguson sent the Badgers to halftime with a 20-3 lead.
At the half, Wisconsin held an 18:59-11:01 time of possession edge, and the Badgers ran 41 plays compared to 30 for the Huskers.
But Nebraska showed it was not going away quietly, as Martinez threw a strike to a streaking Spielman down the seam on the second play of the second half for a 75-yard touchdown. Pickering’s PAT pulled the Huskers within 20-10 with nearly the entire second half remaining.
Taylor continued to carry the load for Wisconsin on the opening drive of its second half, rushing four times for 41 yards, including a 21-yard dash to push the UW lead back to 17 with 11:04 left in the third quarter.
The two teams exchanged touchdowns the rest of the way, as the Huskers played the Badgers even on the scoreboard in the second half and produced 64 more total offense yards than Wisconsin after halftime.
Nebraska returns to Big Ten road action next week at Northwestern. Kickoff between the Huskers and the Wildcats is set for 11 a.m. (CT) with live national television coverage on ABC.