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Halftime observations: How crossing routes are causing problems for Wisconsin's defense against Nebraska

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The University of Wisconsin football team’s defense got a bit of a wake-up call from Nebraska on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

No. 19 UW is in a battle against the Cornhuskers, tied at 14-14 at half, and the visitors already have 220 yards of offense. UW could use a turnover early in the second half to swing the momentum.

Here are three observations from the first half.

Allen already having big game

UW freshman tailback Braelon Allen was up to his usual tricks against Nebraska, bouncing off would-be tacklers and running with authority. His 71-yard carry on a third-and-1 in the first quarter marked his 10th touchdown of the season. He bounced off Nebraska senior safety Cam Taylor-Britt and burst to the right for the score.

He has 113 yards on nine carries in the first half, which gives him seven consecutive games of 100 yards, tying him with Jonathan Taylor for fourth-longest 100-yard game streak in UW history. He’s also on pace to eclipse 1,000 yard this season, which hasn’t been done by a true freshman tailback since Taylor in 2017.

Crossing routes causing issues

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez has been a pain for the Badgers since he arrived at Nebraska, and he’s having a solid day thus far. Martinez has 170 total yards, with 158 through the air.

He’s finding big holes in the UW secondary with deep crossing routes, hitting Samori Toure with two on the opening drive for 69 yards. Their connections helped Nebraska score the first opening-drive points against the Badgers this season. Tight end Austin Allen caught a deep crosser later in the first quarter.

UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has played three safeties instead of a nickel corner on a few occasions, and he hasn’t shied away from blitzing his inside linebackers despite the Cornhuskers’ success over the middle. Nebraska is leaving backs and tight ends in to help block to give Martinez time.

Penalties costly

UW committed penalties late in the second quarter that hurt both its offense and defense.

Backup cornerback and special teamer Alexander Smith was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after a UW punt, an infraction that gave Nebraska the ball at the UW 33-yard line. The Cornhuskers scored to tie the game thanks in part to the good field position.

Senior tight end Jake Ferguson was called for holding after UW had gotten to Nebraska’s 12, derailing a promising drive that started with a screen to Ferguson. Senior kicker Collin Larsh missed a 33-yard field goal to end that drive without points.

Injury update

Here’s a look at the Badgers’ injury situation at halftime.

Ruled out before the game

UW does not give reasons as to why players are unavailable on its status reports.

WR A.J. Abbott

RB Jackson Acker

DE Rodas Johnson

OLB Spencer Lytle

TE Hayden Rucci

ILB Jordan Turner


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