Nebraska football: Full stock report following Week 12 loss to Wisconsin
Another week, another blown opportunity at a chance to secure a bowl game for Nebraska. This time, it came in Madison with a 24-17 overtime loss to Wisconsin.
Heading into the final week of the season, Nebraska is now riding a 3-game losing streak, and each one has been just as excruciating as the last. All 3 losses have been one-score games, and a shot at the postseason now rides on the season-ending rivalry game against Iowa.
Here is the stock report coming out of the Week 12 loss and a 5-6 record for Matt Rhule’s squad:
Player of the Week: QB Chubba Purdy
The status of Nebraska’s QB room was a topic throughout the week of preparation. Heinrich Haarberg was officially listed as questionable after a sprained ankle sustained against Maryland, and Rhule and his staff ultimately went with Purdy over Jeff Sims for the start.
Purdy played well and delivered some crucial plays throughout. On the first drive of the game, Purdy scrambled on a 3rd-down play before tucking the ball and gashing Wisconsin for a 55-yard score.
It wasn’t all about Purdy’s legs though with the QB flashing some strong throws in the passing game. One of those came on a 58-yard strike with Jaylen Lloyd scoring against the Badger defense.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) November 19, 2023
Though Nebraska did not score again until the waning moments of the fourth quarter, that cannot all be pinned on Purdy. Twice he had the offense deep into Wisconsin territory but a turnover on downs and a missed field goal kept the Huskers off the board.
In fact, the final drive of the game was a tandem effort by Purdy and Emmett Johnson to get Tristan Alvano in range to force overtime. The bottom line is Purdy showed enough in a tough road environment to get another look as Nebraska’s starter moving forward.
Newcomers of the Week: WRs Jaylen Lloyd and Malachi Coleman
Nebraska needed some big-play receiving options to complement the ground game and Billy Kemp early in the season. The Huskers have found a few of those players with Jaylen Lloyd and Malachi Coleman showing some strong flashes as true freshmen.
Lloyd scored his second touchdown of the season against the Badgers, and he now has 5 catches for 171 yards with 34.2 yards per catch. Though Coleman did not have that kind of electric outing against the Badgers, he chipped in 2 catches for 32 yards and is now up to 6 catches on the season for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Biggest Surprise: Ground game lacks efficiency
Overall, Nebraska’s rushing attack gained 195 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry against Wisconsin. Those numbers are right in line with the season average for the Cornhuskers, but a little digging into those numbers paints the big issue for the offense from Saturday’s loss.
On the opening drive of the game, Chubba Purdy ripped off his 55-yard touchdown run, and that big play overshadowed what as an otherwise inefficient ground game in the loss. After the first drive of the game, Nebraska managed just 120 rushing yards on 35 carries which works out to a little over 3.4 yards per carry.
The big play was a hot spark to open the game, but Nebraska was unable to string enough plays together in the middle portion of the game to keep the Badgers off balance.
Biggest Concern: Lack of November wins
Entering the season, it’s possible a number of fans would have viewed a 5-6 record through 11 games as a success for Rhule in his first season with the program. However, you create your own expectations, and Nebraska is now facing the prospect of going winless in November with a shot at a bowl game in all 4 games.
It is not quite time to write the obituary on Nebraska’s bowl chance because Iowa’s own issues are well-documented. Still, imagine for a second the Huskers do lose in Week 13.
That would give Nebraska another losing season and a 4-game losing streak to finish the season after once sitting with a 5-3 record at the end of October. It goes without saying, but that is simply not good enough considering the teams involved in the current losing streak.
Developing Trend: Lack of 3rd-down stops
Throughout the season, one of Nebraska’s true strengths has been the defense. That includes the effort on 3rd-down conversions with opponents converting 37.04% all season long. Unfortunately, Nebraska has allowed that number to tick up in back-to-back games.
During the loss to Maryland, Nebraska allowed the Terrapins to convert 6-for-13 on 3rd downs (46%) and that number was similar in Week 12 with the Badgers going 7-for-15 (46.6%) against the Husker defense.
The impact of that number in one-score games is easy to see. By comparison, Nebraska held Purdue (5-for-16) and Northwestern (3-for-15) well below 40% on 3rd-down conversions in wins earlier this season.
First impressions for Week 13
Nebraska prepares for Senior Day and the traditional Heroes Game matchup against Iowa in what sets up as a classic defensive struggle. The Huskers will pit their 18.7 points per game offense against a Hawkeye defense that gives up just 12.4 points per game. It’s unlikely either ground game finds much room to work in this game, and that puts a lot of pressure back on the QBs.
Overall, the Hawkeyes have 9 interceptions in 11 games this season, and opposing QBs have been limited to a 98.36 passer rating for the season. Regardless of who takes the snaps for Nebraska, they will need to make plays in this one.
The Black Friday kickoff is set for 12 p.m. ET on CBS.