No. 14 Wisconsin renews ‘rivalry’ at Nebraska

Field Level Media

November 13, 2019 at 12:56 am.

Nebraska and No. 14 Wisconsin play on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb., with some Badgers wondering if the annual matchup is really a rivalry these days.

“I think it was a big rivalry back before they had the trophy, so they created the trophy, and now it hasn’t left here. I don’t know if it’s much of a rivalry anymore,” said Wisconsin senior outside linebacker Zack Baun.

The winner of the game gets the Freedom Trophy, which was unveiled in 2014. The Badgers (7-2, 4-2) have won six straight in series against the Huskers (4-5, 2-4), so the trophy has had permanent residence in Madison.

Senior outside linebacker Chris Orr considers the game a rivalry because it pits Big Ten West opponents, and he said the trophy adds a “physical presence.”

Nebraska coach Scott Frost said he’d like the Huskers to become consistent and compete on the same level with Wisconsin. Nebraska, coming off a bye week, has lost three consecutive games.

“We need to get our program to where we can give them a run and compete with them because they’ve consistently probably the best team in our half for quite a few years,” Frost said.

“Hats off to them and credit to where they are as a program. They’re probably going to have a target on their back from every Big Ten West team for a while because they’ve been at the top.”

Wisconsin brings a bit of momentum to Lincoln following a 24-22 victory over then-No. 18 Iowa last weekend.

A key point will be how well the Badgers contain Huskers sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez. Wisconsin ranks second nationally in yards allowed (231.4 yards per game) and third in passing efficiency defense (94.90 rating).

The dual-threat Martinez has completed 110 of 185 passes for 1,492 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. He also has 97 rushes for 399 yards and five scores.

“It’s a really explosive, good offense,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “It stresses you and everybody has to do their part in it. True assignment football. They’ve got a lot of playmakers and it certainly starts with him.”

Wisconsin’s victory over the Hawkeyes showcased the Badgers’ success in the passing and running games.

Junior running back Jonathan Taylor, who has scored 19 touchdowns this season, had 31 rushes for 250 yards, both season highs. Taylor was a fringe Heisman candidate until the Badgers were upset 24-23 at Illinois on Oct. 19 and then lost by 31 at Ohio State a week later. Taylor has 5,430 rushing yards and 44 rushing touchdowns in his career.

In two games against the Huskers, Taylor has rushed 49 times for 470 yards.

Junior wide receiver Quintez Cephus caught five passes for 94 yards and one touchdown against Iowa, while junior wide receiver Danny Davis scored via a run and reception.

Junior quarterback Jack Coan continues to be a steady presence under center. He ranks fourth nationally in completion percentage (73.2) and has thrown 12 touchdowns with three interceptions.

Coan was 16 of 25 for 173 yards, two touchdowns and one pick against Iowa.