The Cornhuskers were not able to keep up on offense or come up with any answers for stopping the Badgers rushing attack, as they fell by a final score of 70-31 in the 2012 Big Ten Championship game.
The Cornhuskers managed to rack up 477 yards on offense and four touchdowns, but gave up over 600 yards on defense. Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon combined to rush for 418 yards and four touchdowns, while James White added another four touchdowns for the Badgers. Despite each team having nearly the same time of possession, the Cornhuskers rushed for 257 fewer yards, and committed three turnovers.
Let's take a look at the Cornhuskers' final postgame grades and evaluations.
Overall Game Grade: C-
Taylor Martinez’s incredible 76-yard touchdown run in the first quarter made it seem like his interception on the Cornhuskers first play of the game was going to be a one-time thing and that he would be able to keep up with the Badgers scoring.
Martinez still had a sensational 76-yard scramble that came just after a delay of game penalty following a Badgers defensive formation that seemed to confuse the Cornhuskers offense, and helped keep the team in the game through the first quarter. On the next drive following his touchdown run, Martinez hit Kyler Reed for a 16-yard catch, rushed for an 18-yard gain and found Quincy Eunanwa for a 13-yard pickup that set-up a field goal. He found Eunanwa again for a 26-yard completion late in the quarter.
After that, however, things well down hill.
Martinez struggled to get anything going in the second quarter, and ended the team’s only drive that was moving downfield when he lost a fumble. After showing his athleticism in the first quarter, Martinez completed just three passes and rushed for just 12 yards in the second quarter.
The third quarter started with Martinez being intercepted on the third play of the opening drive. However, he did manage to rush for an 11-yard touchdown on the second drive of the quarter, after the Cornhuskers had marched 75 yards from their own 25-yard line. Besides a 17-yard pass to Rex Burkhead later in the quarter, Martinez was not able to spark any big plays for the Cornhuskers.
Martinez had a 28-yard run in the fourth quarter and a 10-yard completion to Jamal Turner to help set-up two scores, but it was not nearly enough to overcome the deficit that had been created throughout the game.
After his first quarter highlight reel play, it seemed as if Martinez would be able to find success against the Badgers defense and get the Cornhuskers back into the game. However, two interceptions and a fumble combined with a defense that was not able to slow down the Badgers scoring made Martinez’s task even more difficult.
Martinez completed 17 of 33 passes for 184 yards, and rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Martinez made good use of play-action calls early to find holes in the Badgers defense, but his accuracy seemed to falter as the game went on, as multiple throws were thrown short of the receivers.
Overall Game Grade: B
The Cornhuskers entered the game with three rushers who, combined, had a great chance of leading the offense to a win. However, it was the Badgers running game that stole the show.
Quarterback Taylor Martinez was the Cornhuskers leading rusher, running for 140 yards and two touchdowns, including a 76-yard scramble on a third-down in the first quarter.
Rex Burkhead played again for the Cornhuskers, but managed just 61 yards on 11 carries and no scores. His longest rush of the game came for 19 yards. Burkhead continued grinding throughout the game, however, and tried to spark the offense despite the huge deficit.
Ameer Abdullah, who entered the game as the Cornhuskers leading rusher and who has over 1,000 rushing yards this season, ran for just 18 yards on limited carries.
Braylon Heard and Imani Cross took over the team’s ground game late, with Heard rushing for 28 yards and a touchdown and Cross rushing for 35 yards and another touchdown. Both players scored touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the two combined for 54 yards on a scoring drive to close out the game.
The Cornhuskers rushed for 282 total yards in the game and had 6.4 yards per rush but, when compared to the 539 total yards and 10.8 yards per rush by the Badgers, the Cornhuskers ground game was not as effective as it has been throughout the season.
Overall Game Grade: B
Three wide receivers caught passes for the Cornhuskers, with two players combining for over 100 receiving yards in the game.
Sophomore Jamal Turner caught five passes for 63 yards, including a 32-yard reception. This catch was his longest of the season. Although he did not find the end zone, he did catch at least five passes for the second straight game in which he has played in, after having never caught more than three passes in a game for a majority of the season.
Quincy Enunwa had five receptions for 51 yards, his most receptions in a game in the last six weeks. Kenny Bell, the Cornhuskers leading receiver, caught two passes for 14 yards, with his longest reception coming for nine yards.
Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah also combined to catch three passes for 29 yards.
The Cornhuskers passing game started off the first quarter by using play-action calls to help set-up the offense, and Taylor Martinez was able to spread the ball around to five different players. However, as the game went on, Martinez’s trouble with his accuracy combined with a few penalties that brought plays back lessened the receivers’ effectiveness.
Overall Game Grade: B-
Two tight ends caught passes for the Cornhuskers.
Kyler Reed had a 16-yard reception in the first quarter to start a drive that eventually led to a field goal, and finished with two catches for 29 yards.
Senior Ben Cotton had one catch for nine yards, making it just the third time in the last eight games that he’s played in that he’s had less than 10 receiving yards.
Overall Game Grade: C
It’s not easy to keep a player like Taylor Martinez, who has a chance to break for a big run at any point, on his feet. However, Martinez was still sacked six times in the game.
The offensive line struggled to contain the Badgers blitz at times, and only helped Burkhead total 61 rushing yards before the Cornhuskers found success late. Compared to the Badgers offensive line, which helped pave the way for 539 total rushing yards, the Cornhuskers offensive line did not help get the running game get going fast enough for the team to keep pace.
Overall Game Grade: F
The Cornhuskers defensive line was beaten in nearly every way by the Badgers running backs. Any time a defense gives up over 200 rushing yards to two different players in a game, they’re going to receive a low grade.
Montee Ball gave his last bid for an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony by rushing for 202 yards on 21 carries for three touchdowns. He was also joined by Melvin Gordon in the 200 club for the game. Gordon racked up 216 yards on just nine carries, giving him a 24-yard per carry average on the game. James White added another 109 yards and four touchdowns to help the Badgers rush for 539 total yards and eight touchdowns.
Multiple times, White was able to run straight up the middle against the Cornhuskers defense, while Ball was able to beat linemen around the edge throughout the game. Quarterback Curt Phillips remained untouched for a majority of the game.
Overall Game Grade: D
The Cornhuskers linebackers avoid a failing grade simply because they didn’t have a chance to prove themselves against the Badgers passing attack, because the Badgers got everything they needed from their ground game.
However, each of the Badgers three running backs still managed to run right through the Cornhuskers linebackers during the game. James White had a rush of 68 yards, while Melvin Gordon had a rush of 60 yards and Montee Ball had a rush of 57 yards.
The Badgers ability to run the ball straight up the middle with ease and beat defenders to the outside throughout the game allowed them to run to a nearly 50-point lead at one point.
Overall Game Grade: D
The Cornhuskers secondary didn’t have to defend the pass much, as Badgers quarterback Curt Phillips threw just eight passes in the game. However, he completed six of them, and averaged 8.9 yards per completion.
The Cornhuskers defensive backs were caught off guard twice on trick plays, one involving a pass from Jared Abbrederis to Phillips, and another from James White to Sam Arneson for a touchdown. The defensive backs also rarely provided any help as the last line of defense against the Badgers ground game, after they had ran into the secondary.
Overall Game Grade: A
Special teams weren’t involved too much in the game, but kicker Brett Maher made a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter to help get the Cornhuskers back into the game at the time.
Ameer Abdullah had a 23-yard kick return for the Cornhuskers. Maher didn’t have any exceptional punts, but he did have two that put the Badgers at their 20- and 19-yard lines to start drives.
Overall Game Grade: C-
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck started off the game by utilizing play-action calls to help set-up both the pass and the run, but was only able to guide the offense to one touchdown between the second and third quarters.
Defensively, the Cornhuskers never seemed to have an answer for the Badgers ground game, and gave up touchdowns consistently until the fourth quarter. Bo Pelini’s squad also saw two trick plays go for positive yardage and/or a touchdown against the Cornhuskers.