Wisconsin could hardly have picked a better way to start the game and Nebraska could scarcely have done a better job finishing it.
The Cornhuskers came back from a 17-point third-quarter deficit and closed the deal, beating the Badgers 30-27 Saturday night in a rocking Memorial Stadium. Junior quarterback Taylor Martinez grew up in the second half, overcoming a lost fumble and several misfires on passes earlier to lead the Huskers on four consecutive scoring drives.
Here are my three keys to the second-largest comeback in school history (chime in on the talkback with your take):
1. The Blackshirts showed some teeth in the second half – especially the front seven – shutting down Wisconsin's running game and forcing redshirt freshman quarterback Joel Stave into less-than-desirable down-and-distance situations.
Although the Badger offensive line appears to be down from last year, it was still a great accomplishment to hold the defending Big Ten champs to 84 total yards in the second half and only 60 rushing yards for the game.
Even Sean Fisher, who hasn't done much as a linebacker since breaking his leg two years ago, got a big stop on Monte Ball and that could be enough to make the pre-med student an Academic All-American.
2. Ameer Abdullah provided a much-needed spark when Rex Burkhead didn't seem like his old self for much of the game. Abdullah rushed for 70 yards, caught three passes for 22 yards and had an 83-yard kickoff return that set up Maher's first field goal.
3. Brett Maher started to look like his old All-Big Ten self, kicking three field goals, including a 38-yarder to tie the game at 27-all late in the third quarter and a dead-center 41-yarder with 9:41 left in the game that provided the winning margin. Equally important, all Maher's second-half kickoffs went for touchbacks, denying Wisconsin good field position.
Tad Stryker is the former sports editor of the North Platte Bulletin and provides analysis after each Husker football game for Bulletin readers. Stryker also writes for HuskerMax. (http://www.huskermax.com).