No. 7 Wisconsin beats No. 8 Nebraska 48-17
Another newcomer can't quite say that same thing, as Big Red showed it wasn't quite ready for the best of the Big Ten.
Wilson gave Nebraska a harsh welcome to conference play, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another in No. 7 Wisconsin's 48-17 rout of the eighth-ranked Cornhuskers on Saturday night.
"If there's a better player in college football right now, I'd like to see it," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said of Wilson.
Montee Ball ran for 151 yards and four touchdowns for the Badgers (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten). But Wilson was the main attraction for a primetime audience as Wisconsin overcame a slow start to solidify its status as Big Ten favorites.
Badgers safety Aaron Henry compared Wilson to NFL star Michael Vick, perhaps minus some of the speed.
"His personality is through the roof, but his play on the field is tremendous," Henry said. "He can get us out of plays with his legs, and he also can get us out of tight situations throwing the ball."
Taylor Martinez threw three interceptions for the Huskers (4-1, 0-1).
"We didn't make plays," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "I'm embarrassed. I apologize to the fans of Nebraska."
By the time the Camp Randall Stadium public address system blared "Jump Around" to get fans hopping before the fourth quarter, the game already was in the bag for the Badgers.
"I knew there was a lot of hype going into this game," Bielema said. "That's why I kind of challenged our players to embrace it all week. I knew if we went out and played well and did what we do, we'd get a lot more attention."
It was the sixth meeting between the teams and the first since 1974, but clearly the biggest and one of the most anticipated games in recent memory for Wisconsin. The Badgers fans didn't exactly have Camp Randall to themselves.
The crowd of 81,384 was filled with plenty of Nebraska fans — they wore black to differentiate themselves from Wisconsin fans who wear a similar shade of red — amid reports earlier in the week that thousands of fans were expected to make the trip to Madison this weekend for the Huskers' first conference game as a member of the Big Ten.
"Like coach said, that's not Nebraska football," cornerback Alfonzo Dennard said. "How we came out and played, that's not Nebraska football."
The Badgers sent the Huskers and their fans home disappointed, but the two teams could be on track to meet again.
Wisconsin is in the Leaders division of the Big Ten and Nebraska is in the Legends division, meaning the two teams could play in the conference championship game.
It was another big step for Wilson, the former North Carolina State quarterback who gave up minor league baseball to return to college football and play for a Badgers team that seemed to have all the pieces of a BCS bowl contender but needed a quarterback.
Five games into the season, there's no reason to think otherwise.
Wilson had played well in his first four games for the Badgers after joining them over the summer, but hadn't yet been tested by a top-level opponent since his days with the Wolfpack.
"He's a good football player, obviously," Pelini said. "He hurt us with his feet."
And Wilson found himself under pressure early, especially by standout Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick. But then Wilson started showing his ability to scramble out of trouble and extend plays — and Nebraska's defense couldn't keep up.
"Russell throws the ball on the move about as well as he throws the ball in the pocket, right or left," Bielema said.
Wisconsin's defense also appeared to be in for a long night, allowing a pair of early — and easy — touchdown drives to Martinez and the Huskers that put the Badgers behind 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Wilson answered with a drive, and Ball scored his second touchdown of the day. The extra point try was blocked by Crick, and Nebraska still led 14-13.
Later in the quarter, Wisconsin's defense picked off Martinez on two straight possessions, the first by linebacker Mike Taylor and the second by Henry.
Wilson made the Huskers pay for both turnovers, firing a 36-yard touchdown to Jared Abbrederis, then a 46-yard touchdown to Nick Toon with 0:32 left. Nebraska missed a 50-yard field goal try near the end of the second quarter, and Wisconsin took a 27-14 lead into halftime.
Martinez then threw another interception on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, this time to cornerback Antonio Fenelus.
Wilson helped the Badgers cash in again, this time with his legs. On first-and-goal at the 10, Wilson faked a handoff and took off running, leaving the Huskers' defense in his dust on a touchdown run. Wisconsin took a 34-14 lead, effectively ending the game early in the third quarter.
Rex Burkhead had 18 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown for the Huskers.
Last updated: 6:49 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012