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September 24, 2012
Revenge is such an easy storyline to play up. A team beat you last year, so naturally everybody thinks this year you are out for revenge.
In 2010 Nebraska wanted revenge on Texas after the Longhorns earned a controversial win over the Huskers in the 2009 Big 12 championship game. The entire off-season was spent on figuring out ways to stick it to the Longhorns on the way out of the Big 12.
We all know what happened next. The Huskers laid a big fat egg at home and lost to the worst Texas team we've seen in the Mack Brown era. The team and the fans wanted it so bad they forgot to show up to the game.
As I look at Saturday's game with Wisconsin I see a similar storyline. The Badgers stuck it to Nebraska 48-17. Husker fans that made the trip to Madison were treated so poorly by Badger fans that Athletic Director Barry Alvarez issued an apology to Nebraska fans and called out his own fan base for their behavior.
Heading into Saturday's game it's easy to think about revenge. The Badgers are clearly down this year and the Huskers enter the game as a 13 point favorite.
As Pelini gets his team ready this week it will important for him not to overplay last year's loss in Madison. We've seen it too many times before that the revenge angle doesn't always work like you think it would. If anything, it affects your focus and preparation levels for the upcoming game.
"I'm not talking about that game anymore," Pelini said of last year's loss to Wisconsin. "I'm past that game. When you are in my position and you are a competitive every loss hurts the same. It is not easy to deal with. It isn't like I can go and get away from it and I move on to my job or whatever. When you live in it and you compete for a living, trust me when I tell you, it hurts. And it hurts deep at the core when you lose football games."
A couple of the players used the word "bad taste" when they described last year's loss at Wisconsin.
However, senior safety P.J. Smith said they can't get too caught up in worrying about that anymore.
"It was embarrassing," Smith said of last year. "It was embarrassing. We just need to go out there and we want to dominate. It's going to be a hell of a game. There are a lot of emotions going into this game, but we need to channel that and settle down and do all the things they are asking us to do. We need to protect the ball and get turnovers. As long as our offense has the ball, we'll be fine."
Senior running back Rex Burkhead also said it's important that the team only worries about Saturday and doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about last season.
"It's a new year," Burkhead said. "It was a bad start last year and at the same time it's a new year with new teams on both sides. We just need to be ready and be focused and have a great week of preparation. We definitely would love to get after them, but revenge can only take you so far as a motivation throughout the game. We just need to focus on ourselves."
Limiting Wisconsin's play action is key
They key to stopping this Wisconsin offense is limiting their running game on early downs, which takes away the play action element.
When the Badgers are rolling, they are used to getting big chunks of yardage on first down, which allows them to be more creative with play action fakes on second and third down when opposing defenses are overplaying the run.
This season with the Badgers struggles on offense, we haven't seen near the element of the play action like we saw in previous years under Bret Bielema. Smith said it will be important for the Huskers to play with discipline on defense.
"Don't try to be too anxious and get in there with our run fit," Smith said. "We know they like to run the ball a lot, so they'll want to do some play actions. We just need to relax out there and have some fun and read our keys and go from there."
Offensive numbers eye popping
When you look at the offensive numbers for Nebraska through four games it's really eye popping where the Huskers rank in the Big Ten.
NU currently leads the league in total offense, scoring offense, rushing offense, passing efficiency and first downs.
A year ago it was the Wisconsin offense that was in this position. Now the Badgers rank last in the Big Ten in total offense and passing offense and they rank 11th in rushing offense and 10th in scoring offense. In total offense Wisconsin ranks 110th nationally, compared to last year where they easily were leading the Big Ten and they were a top 10 national unit.
When you lose a quarterback like Russell Wilson and wide receiver like Nick Toon to go along with six assistant coaches it just goes to show you how much of an impact that can have on a team.
Around the state
***Lincoln Southwest linebacker and Husker commit Josh Banderas will have his U.S. Army All-American announcement on Monday Oct. 22 at 8:30 am.
***I ventured out to Aurora on Friday night with Nate Clouse to watch the Huskies take on Scottsbluff. I came away very impressed with Scottsbluff as they won the game 32-8. The player for Scottsbluff that probably opened my eyes the most was athlete Matt Klein. The 6-foot-1, 170 pound Klein was a "do everything" type of player for the Bearcats finishing with 25 carries for 124 yards primarily being utilized in the Wildcat. At the next level Klein probably projects best as a safety.
***I about spit out my coffee on Saturday morning when I saw that 2014 Millard North athlete Clay Fisher had 34 carries for 244 yards on Friday to go along with 75 yards passing in his first game at quarterback. Fisher stepped in at QB for the injured Isaac Aakre and it's safe to say he didn't disappoint. I see Nebraska and Iowa offers in Fisher's near future.
***2014 Omaha Westside running back Lane Yates is starting to get my attention. Yates has put up big numbers each week for the 4-1 Warriors.
Three and out
***I'm a fan of the alternate uniforms, but I rather see it only for this season. An Adidas rep for Nebraska said it probably costs around $700 to $800 to outfit each player for this game, but Adidas picks up the tab on all of that. The new helmet alone is worth around $250 to $300 per player.
***I'd be surprised if we see Wisconsin running back Montee Ball play on Saturday. This is the second concussion he's had in two months. Ball's other concussion happened during his off-field altercation.
***Bret Bielma said he has seen a "spiked improvement" in Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez's play from a year ago. It's crazy to think how far Martinez has come since that dreadful night in Madison.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.