A Viewer's Guide to Wisconsin-Nebraska

Some things to watch for during the Rose Bowl.

First half only – garbage time in the second

ESPN Play-by-Play

Wisconsin @ UW 35…Ball OZ cutback (or counter?) with backside trap blocking with 3rd TE for 7, Nebraska flowed too fast and Ball got the edge…Ball Power for 3…Bootleg+fake jet sweep fools Nebraska, quick out, reminds me of Hogan-to-Hewitt…Gordon jet sweep for 56, TOUCHDOWN. 4 plays 75 yards. 7-0 Wisconsin.

Nebraska’s WLB, who has contain responsibility, didn’t see the jet sweep at all. Assumed that the dropping safety had responsibility and just stood around. Gordon dodges that Nebraska safety (overaggressive, went all out), jukes the other safety (who took a miserable angle), and he’s gone.

Nebraska @ NU 255 yard stop route, ball slips through receiver’s hands, INTERCEPTED, PICK-SIX. 1 play 0 yards. 14-0 Wisconsin.

Martinez telegraphed that – he can’t help it, he takes so long to set up and throw. That didn’t affect the play; it was the receiver’s fault; I just wanted to point that out.

Nebraska @ NU 25…Screen for 5…Screen for 4…Penalty Nebraska, false start…Penalty Nebraska, delay of game (how is this possible/acceptable? DoG after a penalty?)…Martinez scrambles for 76, TOUCHDOWN. 3 plays 75 yards. 14-7 Wisconsin.

OMG. And that sounded even more amazing with Gus Johnson calling the play.

Wisconsin @ UW 25…Scramble for no gain…Ball IZ for 4…Comeback, receiver slips, incomplete…Punt. 3 plays 5 yards. 14-7 Wisconsin.

Nebraska isn’t shading its ends outside – they’re committing to the inside and (hopefully) trusting their secondary to make the plays on the jet sweeps.

Nebraska @ NU 10…PA to TE up the middle for 16…ZR OZ with TE trap for 2…Midline ZR keeper (read the DT instead of the DE), breaks a tackle, goes for 18…Snag for 9…OZ cutback for 7, fantastic body control by Burkhead…Sweep for 19…Sack for 8, LB didn’t bite on the fake handoff at all…Deep curl, open but incomplete, Martinez throws a one-hopper…Curl for 13…32 yd FG. 10 plays 76 yards. 14-10 Wisconsin.

On the first play, Wisconsin’s FS didn’t rotate to take the vertical on the right, and when the cornerback went back to cover the flat, the receiver was open for six, easy. Linebackers bit on the fake jet sweep completely and the TE up the middle was wide open (first read), so Martinez took that.

Wisconsin @ UW 25…Ball OZ cutback for 21, LBs overpursued and safety took a bad angle…Gordon jet sweep for 24, the safety took a bad angle…Ball OZ for 1…Quick pass to the flat for 10 out of the Ninja formation…Ball Power for 1…Ball bucksweep for 7…Direct snap to White, IZ for 2…Direct snap to White, Iso for 9, White sees no hole and cuts outside, TOUCHDOWN. 8 plays 75 yards. 21-10 Wisconsin.

Nebraska, what is this thing you call "staying home?" Have you ever heard of it? Have you ever practiced it?

Mike Leach once described the "Ninja" formation, where the offensive linemen line up on one side of the field and the QB on the other, but I never thought I’d actually see anybody try it. The snapper effectively sets a pick for the tight end, taking out two players with one block. Just a well-designed, well-executed play.

Nebraska @ NU 25…QB keeper for -1, not sure what the play was because it looked like Nebraska was read-optioning two guys at the same time, probably an OL miscommunication…Post for 26…Deep out, incomplete, Martinez throws it to nowhere in particular, seriously what in the world was that? Inaccurate AND a one-hopper…End of the first quarter…QB sweep, UW’s back seven doesn’t jump at the misdirection, loss of 2, FUMBLED out of bounds…Rolls out, pursued immediately, corner, not happening…Punt. 5 plays 23 yards. 21-10 Wisconsin.

UW rushes 4 or 5 on most NU passes. Martinez has all day, though. Hogan shouldn’t have to worry that much about keeping his jersey clean.

That punt went 19 yards. Dude.

Wisconsin @ UW 33…Ball OZ for 12…Bucksweep for no gain, but penalty Wisconsin, holding…Post-corner for 16, excellent pick play and Nebraska bit hard on the PA…Direct snap to White, OZ for 1…White swing pass for 22, Wisconsin sent bunched trips receivers up the middle and the entire back seven was distracted…Abbrederis takes the handoff, fakes the jet sweep and hits the QB for 27, what a joke…Direct snap to White, who barges in for the score. 6 plays 67 yards. 28-10 Wisconsin.

At this point, nearly every single Wisconsin running play (except the bucksweep) is a counter of some sort. Nebraska really doesn’t understand that you can’t flow this quickly. Wisconsin is doing a good job of messing with Nebraska’s front seven, with a playside play, then a counter, then playside (which is a counter to the counter), etc.

Nebraska @ NU 25…Sweep for no gain…Post, incomplete, it looked almost as though Martinez had decided where to throw before the ball had been snapped, and the TE was open down the middle…Nebraska’s LT and RT are simultaneously abused, sack, loss of 2…Punt. 3 plays -2 yards. 28-10 Wisconsin.

Taylor Martinez is playing so badly that the offense has to devote an extra player to the jet sweep PA just to (hopefully) open things up for him. Like, they actually HAVE to.

Nebraska is using man protection when they don’t even know what men will be rushing. Kudos to Wisconsin for the trippy (and sound) strategy, but you have to check to a full slide or a half-slide here. Or they could have been sliding and just sucked at it, which is possible, but it didn’t look like that.

Wisconsin @ UW 31…Ball Power for 5…Rollout, flat for 1, Nebraska’s watching the rollout now…Abbrederis stick for 13, and penalty Nebraska, personal foul…Ball OZ cutback for 7…Gordon jet sweep for 12, poor, poor angles by Nebraska’s DBs…Direct snap to White, Ball jet sweep for 16, TOUCHDOWN. 6 plays 69 yards. 35-10 Wisconsin.

On the TD, Nebraska finally catches on to the jet sweep and keeps an eye on it, but Ball is too fast and rounds the corner effortlessly. Good block by Wisconsin’s LT to seal the edge, they’ve been doing those very well. The guy opposite him actually shaded to the outside, so that block is even more impressive – and he drove him back several yards as well.

Nebraska @ NU 25...Power for 4…In for 10…Martinez scrambles for 7…OZ ZR keeper for 9, fumbled, RECOVERED BY WISCONSIN. 4 plays 21 yards. 35-10 Wisconsin.

Wisconsin @ UW 45…Ball OZ cutback for 16…Ball OZ cutback for 8, Nebraska’s LBs flowed too fast…Ball Power for 3…White bucksweep for -2, the pulling RG got beaten…White OZ for 2…The same trips-up-the-middle, sneak swing pass play, but overthrown, incomplete, worked reasonably well though…45 yd FG MISSED, shanked hard. 6 plays 27 yards. 35-10 Wisconsin.

On the first play, Nebraska covered the OZ side well and they covered the cutback edge well, but they didn’t have enough numbers in the middle for the actual cutback. Amazingly, Wisconsin actually hasn’t run to the inside very much this game. But then this drive…

Everyone shanks sometimes, and that one was a 45 yarder, but that one never had a prayer. The snap and hold were fine.

Nebraska @ NU 28…Martinez had two hooks open on the left, but he leaves the pocket too early, gain of 1…Skinny post for 13…Quick out for no gain…Martinez slips on the turf and falls down, loss of 9…Martinez bootleg, runs for 7…Punt. 5 plays 12 yards. 35-10 Wisconsin.

Wisconsin @ UW 21…White OZ cutback for 4…White Power for 12, slips through a hole maybe two feet wide at the most, something to watch out for…TO Wisconsin…Gordon jet sweep for 60, what a second wind to pick up the extra 10 yards after being seemingly tackled at the 15…Direct snap to White, PA OZ, a TE sneaks in and catches the pass, completely undefended, TOUCHDOWN WISCONSIN. 4 plays 79 yards. 42-10 Wisconsin.

On the jet sweep, there was one unoccupied blocker and two unoccupied defenders, a DB and a LB; smart decision by the blocker to take the DB, and Gordon’s just too fast for the LB. Smart blocking negates Nebraska’s quick (for once) reaction.

(Mercifully) it’s the end of the first half. I guess this is where garbage time begins? Or maybe garbage time started midway through the second quarter. Wisconsin attempted TEN passes in the first half, and two of those were trick plays.

Um…I don’t really have much to say about Wisconsin’s offense, except that the OL kicked major ass, all the disguised coverage in the world (and it looked like Nebraska had spent a LOT of time working on that) doesn’t mean squat when the offense has no reason to pass the ball, and Nebraska’s LBs don’t understand that the RB is allowed to cut back, or even to run a sweep to the other side. Halfassed play from Nebraska’s DEs, who constantly let Wisconsin seal the edge – part of that was alignment (Pelini put them too far inside), but part of that was also a lack of effort, as Nebraska later adjusted to shade them further outside and Wisconsin still dominated the edge. The OTs are surprisingly agile and fleet-footed. To make a long story short, the RB went to the outside one-on-one with a DB far too often. The DBs did not take perfect angles but they should have been good enough if there had been LB help.

Melvin Gordon is really, really fast, Montee Ball is also really, really fast, and James White is just really good. Excellent stable of backs Wisconsin has right there. All of them just so good in space, and Ball and White are deceptively shifty between the tackles. If Stanford can maintain gap integrity and play disciplined defense – and I think that physically Stanford can take Wisconsin – then these big plays shouldn’t happen.

I do worry about the DBs, though. Stanford has a good tackling secondary, but Johnathan Franklin, Colt Lyerla, Joseph Fauria, etc. have all made a show of dragging multiple DBs up the field for an extra five yards. Still, if the big play can be suppressed, Wisconsin should have more trouble moving the ball. I see no evidence that Curt Phillips and co. can carve up Stanford’s secondary on obvious passing downs, and while he caught a nice pass, his mobility is pretty suspect.

On defense…Wisconsin does not do anything especially out of the ordinary. They hardly disguise their coverage. Cover 2 on passing downs, coached well, and the DBs know their coverage/leverage rules. They gave up a lot of hooks, which plays into Stanford’s hands. They’re also pretty vulnerable to big TEs up the middle seam (licks lips). Their LBs are not very good in coverage. The first Martinez interception was not his fault, although it does show good awareness by the DBs. Conservative scheme, ready to die slowly. Reason for hope: Nebraska put together one good long drive that half, back when they were still in it, but it was torpedoed by Martinez’ screw-ups, not by defensive domination.

I found what Wisconsin did with what Gus Johnson called the "amoeba" front very interesting, but what that does mostly is eliminate the ability for full man protection, because you don’t know who’s rushing. A full slide will probably force a TE to be wasted in pass protection. However, if you call an inside run against the amoeba that’s probably getting six or seven yards, so the key is to eliminate third and long. The pass rushes didn't stunt much and (this isn't necessarily related) were not particularly effectual. I doubt Hogan gets sacked more than three times on New Year’s Day. If Stanford can be patient and not self-destructive they should be able to move the ball reasonably easily.

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