Badgers stage comeback to secure bowl eligibility for 21st straight season
LINCOLN, Neb. — The Badgers are going bowling.
Wisconsin mounted a second-half comeback on Saturday to take down Nebraska, 15-14, in Lincoln.
Both teams traded punches in the first quarter but found little success. The Badgers were able to string together a 10-play drive near the end of the quarter but stalled out just past midfield.
Things turn south for Wisconsin on their next drive. Graham Mertz rolled out to his right and tried to find Skyler Bell, but his pass was underthrown and easily picked off by Malcolm Hartzog.
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The interception gave the Cornhuskers good field position, and they capitalized just eight plays later with Casey Thompson finding Trey Palmer for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Wisconsin had a chance to cut into Nebraska’s lead just before halftime. The Badgers used 13 plays to drive from their own 25-yard line to the Husker’s 21, but could not convert as Nate Van Zelst missed a 39-yard field goal attempt.
Van Zelst got some redemption with under five minutes to go in the third quarter, knocking through a 25-yard field goal to get the Badgers on the board. However, Nebraska responded on the very next drive, going 79 yards on nine plays to find the endzone and bring the score to 14-3.
To make matters worse, the drive saw linebacker Nick Herbig get ejected for targeting. By rule, Herbig will miss the first half of next week’s game.
Wisconsin finally found the endzone at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Badgers drove 75 yards on 10 plays, ending in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Mertz to Bell to bring the score to 14-10.
The two teams traded possession, then the Badgers got the ball back with only three minutes to play.
In crunch time, Wisconsin’s offense showed up. The Badgers put together seven plays, with Mertz sneaking into the endzone to give Wisconsin their first lead of the day.
The touchdown gave Nebraska 35 seconds to work with and put pressure on the defense to keep the Huskers quiet. And that they did.
The Cornhuskers were unable to move past midfield, running out of time and giving the Badgers the win.
It was a slow day at the office for Mertz, who completed just 8 of his 18 passes for 83 yards. The Badger offense relied more on the running game. Both Braelon Allen and a returning Chez Mellusi nearly cracked 100 rushing yards. Issac Guerrendo added 42 as Wisconsin recorded 235 rushing yards.
The Badger defense held firm for most of Saturday’s contest. Thompson recorded 106 passing yards on 12 throws, and the Husker running game was held to just 65 yards on 29 carries. Wisconsin also recorded three sacks and 9 tackles for loss.
The win secured bowl eligibility for Wisconsin, giving them 21 consecutive bowl appearances, one of the longest streaks in the country. They’ll look to cap the regular season off on a high note next week when they host Minnesota.
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