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After overhauling staff, Nebraska faces No. 19 Wisconsin

After overhauling staff, Nebraska faces No. 19 Wisconsin
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s top-ranked defense faces the challenge of preparing for the unknown as it gets ready to face a Nebraska team that just overhauled its offensive coaching staff.

Saturday’s matchup at Camp Randall Stadium will be Nebraska’s first game since Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost fired four offensive assistants, including coordinator Matt Lubick. next year under a restructured contract.

“A bit of a tough transition for the team and for the offense,” Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez acknowledged. “I think there’s no hiding that.”

No. 19 Wisconsin (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten, No. 15 College Football Playoff ) has six straight victories and can reach the Big Ten championship by beating Nebraska and then winning at Minnesota on Nov. 27. Nebraska (3-7, 1-6) has dropped four in a row and already is assured of a fifth consecutive losing season, which helps explain why Frost needed to take such drastic steps to keep his job.

Tight ends coach Sean Beckton is the only remaining offensive assistant who started the season on Frost’s staff. For the final two games of the season, senior offensive analyst Ron Brown will coach the running backs, offensive quality control staffer Steve Cooper will coach quarterbacks, offensive analyst Mike Cassano will coach receivers and senior offensive analyst Frank Verducci will coach the offensive line.

That means Wisconsin had to get ready for Saturday’s game not knowing how much the Cornhuskers plan to depart from what they were doing offensively before the staff changes.

Wisconsin is allowing the fewest yards per game (211.4), yards per play (3.72) and yards per carry (1.9) of any Football Bowl Subdivision team.

TROPHY AT STAKE

Wisconsin and Nebraska already had faced each other eight times when the Freedom Trophy became a part of this series in 2014. Wisconsin has gone 6-0 against Nebraska ever since the trophy was awarded to the winner.

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost argues a call with linesman Bruce Keeling during the second half against Ohio State in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. Ohio State defeated Nebraska 26-17.

The face that a trophy is at stake in each of Nebraska’s last two games gives the Cornhuskers some incentive the rest of the year. The Heroes Trophy goes to the winner of Nebraska’s Nov. 26 home game with Iowa.

“We were kind of talking about the feeling we were going to have when we beat one of these teams, running across the field,” Nebraska tight end Austin Allen said. “Taking that trophy back is going to feel awesome, especially for the possible seniors that are going to leave. It would bring a lot of joy to us to run across that sideline and take it back home.”

TAKING NOTHING FOR GRANTED

Wisconsin has spent the week ignoring Nebraska’s 3-7 record and instead focusing on how close the Cornhuskers have come against other ranked teams. (No. 13 CFP, 32-29 to No. 8 Michigan (No. 6 CFP) and (No. 4 CFP).

“Nebraska’s a good team,” Wisconsin offensive tackle Tyler Beach said. “Their record doesn’t represent that. They’ve done a great job competing with a lot of great teams.”

SURGING ALLEN

Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen has rushed for over 100 yards in each of Wisconsin’s last six games. The 17-year-old freshman ran for a career-high 173 yards in the Badgers’ 35-7 victory over Northwestern last week.

MARTINEZ APPROACHING MILESTONE

Martinez could become Nebraska’s all-time leader in total offense Saturday. He enters the game with 10,418 yards of total offense (8,140 passing, 2,278 rushing). The record is held by Tommy Armstrong Jr. with 10,690 from 2012-16.

DYNAMIC DUOS

Both teams rely on exceptional linebacker tandems.

Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal has 6 1/2 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in eight games. Jack Sanborn has 74 tackles this season and produced three tackles for loss against Northwestern.

Nebraska has two of the Big Ten’s top five tacklers in Luke Reimer (96) and Nick Henrich (87). They’re on pace to become the first Nebraska teammates to collect 100 tackles in the same season since Barrett Ruud and Demorrio Williams did it in 2003.
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