Nebraska-Wisconsin grades: Run game, defense power Badgers to win

Badgers force a rough outing from Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr., find success running the ball.

| 1 month ago
(Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

(Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

Nebraska-Wisconsin grades: Run game, defense power Badgers to win


Wisconsin Badgers 23, Nebraska Cornhuskers 17 (OT)

Here are the biggest takeaways and top-graded players from Wisconsin’s 23-17 overtime win over Nebraska:

Wisconsin Badgers

Quarterback grade: Alex Hornibrook, 58.9; Bart Houston, 59.3

For the second straight week Wisconsin gave playing time to both of their quarterbacks, with starter Alex Hornibrook pulled from the game in both the first and second half for Bart Houston. Both quarterbacks threw unnecessary interceptions to Nebraska S Nathan Gerry, and each of those picks came on crossing routes led too far in front of the receiver and forced into coverage. The best throw from either quarterback came from Hornibrook early in the game, hitting a throwback pass to TE Troy Fumagalli for a 30-yard gain on Wisconsin’s two-play touchdown drive early in the first quarter. But this win was not driven by high-level QB play for the Badgers.

Top offensive grades:

TE Troy Fumagalli, 87.6

LT Ryan Ramczyk, 77.9

RB Dare Ogunbowale, 71.7

WR Robert Wheelwright, 71.3

TE Eric Steffes, 66.5

Fumagalli highlights his all-around game as the Badgers wear the Huskers out on the ground

Badgers TE Troy Fumagalli turned in his best performance of the season so far, highlighting the best of his game as both a receiver and a run-blocker. Fumagalli worked up the field for a 30-yard gain on Wisconsin’s first touchdown drive, but spent much of the night selflessly working to set up Wisconsin’s ground game to the edge. Fellow TE Eric Steffes and LT Ryan Ramczyk also turned in impressive performances as a run-blockers, and it was blocks from Ramczyk and Fumagalli that sprung Dare Ogunbowale’s overtime touchdown. On that play, the running back stayed outside their blocks, unlike the failed third-down conversion prior to Wisconsin’s missed field goal late in the fourth quarter, on whic he cut inside Ramczyk’s pull block into Nebraska defender Josh Banderas to bring up fourth down.

Top defensive grades:

OLB Vince Biegel, 83.8

DE Alec James, 82.4

S D’Cota Dixon, 82.1

OLB T.J. Watt, 78.5

LB Ryan Connelly, 78.3

Badgers bring the heat up front, led by Biegel

Vince Biegel made his return last week against Iowa, but it took until last night for him to re-discover the form as a pass-rusher that he showed in Week 4 against Michigan State prior to his injury. Biegel’s five pressures (all hurries) tied T.J. Watt for the game-high on either team, and he added a further pair of stops in the run game. With the Badgers losing inside linebacker Jack Cichy to a torn pectoral injury, Biegel’s return is well-timed, and the performance throughout the Badgers’ front seven only serves to highlight their strength in depth. They will remain a force in the Big Ten West as the college football season turns for home.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Quarterback grade: Tommy Armstrong Jr, 56.4

This was not a night to remember for Tommy Armstrong, even though he surpassed 10,000 all-purpose yards for his career in the Big Ten. Wild inaccuracy at times and forced passes at others saw Armstrong complete less than 43 percent of his aimed passes. He had four passes batted at the line of scrimmage, with one of those leading to an interception for Wisconsin S D’Cota Dixon. This was a third straight poor performance from Armstrong.

Top offensive grades:

C Dylan Utter, 79.1

WR Jordan Westerkamp, 78.6

WR Stanley Morgan Jr., 76.8

WR Brandon Reilly, 69.1

WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, 66.0

Receivers show flashes but are limited by lack of targets

Nebraska’s wideouts put in a solid showing last night, despite their quarterback’s inability to consistently find them with accurate passes. Jordan Westerkamp and Stanley Morgan Jr. each had a reception of 25 yards or more, breaking a combined six tackles on their eight receptions in the game. They consistently showed a threat to the Wisconsin secondary with the ball in their hands, and had they been given more opportunities perhaps Nebraska would have remained undefeated for another week.

Top defensive grades:

S Nathan Gerry, 84.6

LB Nick Banderas, 84.6

LB Michael Rose-Ivey, 83.8

DT Mick Stoltenberg, 81.2

CB Chris Jones, 80.5

Gerry doubles up to continue his spectacular season

The undoubted star of this Nebraska defense is safety Nathan Gerry, who turned in his second multi-interception performance of the season while adding a pass defense. After a disappointing 2015 campaign by the standards he set as a sophomore, Gerry has starred so far this season both in coverage and in run support. His 24 stops are only three shy of his career-high set in 2014, and his pair of interceptions Saturday night takes his season total to four, with his five passes defensed already a career-best. Gerry was supported last night by linebacker Josh Banderas, whose nine defensive stops were his most in the last three seasons, topping his six-stop performance against USC in the 2014 Holiday Bowl.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Colt

    Gerry is a stud.

  • Redbone

    Such a glowing assessment of Wisconsin “wearing out” the Nebraska defense in s game that they barely won with the help of a non called pass interference on Huskers final third down. Smh