Madison, Wis. - No. 8 Nebraska led No. 7 Wisconsin 14-7 in the second quarter, but the Badgers turned three interceptions into three touchdowns en route to a 48-17 victory at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday.
In a battle of top-10 teams in the Huskers' first-ever Big Ten Conference game, the Huskers executed well during the first 20 minutes in front of 81,384 fans and an ABC primetime national television audience.
With the loss, Nebraska slipped to 4-1 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten, while Wisconsin improved to 5-0 and 1-0 in the conference.
Junior I-back Rex Burkhead led the Huskers with 96 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, while sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez added 61 yards and a score on 20 carries. Martinez added 176 passing yards while completing 11-of-22 attempts, but was intercepted three times during a six-minute span from late in the second quarter to early in the third quarter.
Freshman Jamal Turner led the Husker receivers with career highs of five receptions for 84 yards.
Montee Ball led the Badger ground game with 151 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries, while Russell Wilson completed 14-of-20 passes for 255 yards and two scores through the air. Wilson added 32 yards and another score on six carries for Wisconsin.
Jared Abbrederis led the Badger receivers with five catches for 95 yards including a touchdown, while Nick Toon pitched in four catches for 94 yards and a score.
Overall, the balanced Badger attack amassed 486 yards of total offense, including 231 rushing and 255 passing. Nebraska managed 335 total yards, including 159 rushing yards and 176 yards passing.
Following a one-yard touchdown plunge by Burkhead with 12:45 left in the second quarter, the Huskers claimed a 14-7 edge and appeared to be matching the Badgers on the ground, through the air and on the defensive side of the football.
Despite a 77-yard touchdown drive engineered by Wilson provided an answer for Wisconsin on the ensuing drive, the Huskers maintained a 14-13 lead. Following Ball's second of four touchdown runs, Husker defensive tackle Jared Crick blocked the extra point with 9:48 left in the half.
It was the second big special teams play in the first 20 minutes by the Huskers, following a fumble forced by P.J. Smith on Abbrederis' first Wisconsin punt return of the game. NU turned that Badger miscue into the game's first touchdown on a one-yard plunge by Martinez with 6:02 left in the first quarter.
After Wilson led the Badgers 91 yards on nine plays on their first scoring drive, which was capped by Ball one-yard plunge with 1:27 left in the first quarter, the teams headed to the second quarter tied at seven.
The Huskers maintained that 14-13 lead until Wilson connected with Abbrederis on a 36-yard touchdown strike with 2:03 left in the half. Wisconsin's third scoring drive was set up by an interception from Badger Mike Taylor on 3rd-and-16 at the Wisconsin 46 with 5:37 left.
Trailing 20-14, Nebraska had a chance to answer and regain the lead heading into the locker room. Martinez connected with Jamal Turner on a 26-yard strike to push the Huskers to the 50. Martinez then found Brandon Kinnie on a short completion, before misfiring on another attempted hookup with Kinnie to set up a 3rd-and-6 at the Wisconsin 46.
But Martinez was intercepted by Aaron Henry at the Badger 26, and Henry returned it 11 yards to set up Wilson and Wisconsin with 1st-and-10 with 1:18 left in the half.
The Badgers converted in less than a minute, as Wilson found Toon on a 46-yard touchdown to put the Wisconsin up 27-14 with 27 seconds left in the half.
While the momentum had shifted, the Husker offense marched quickly to end the half, as Martinez found Turner on a 25-yard pass play to give Brett Maher a chance at a 50-yard field goal attempt to end the half. However, Maher's attempt sailed wide right on the kick from the left hash mark, and the Huskers headed to the locker room down 13 knowing they would start the second half with the football.
But after a 38-yard kickoff return by Ameer Abdullah set the offense up at the NU 39 to start the second half, Martinez threw his third interception on the Huskers' opening play from scrimmage in the half. The interception by Antoni Fenelus gave the Badgers the ball back at the NU 42, and they converted seven plays later on a 10-yard run by Wilson to push Wisconsin's lead to 34-14 with 11:21 left in the quarter.
Ball added his third touchdown run of the game with 2:36 left in the third quarter to push the edge to 41-14, before Maher finally stopped Wisconsin's 34-point run with a 32-yard field goal with 13:35 left in the game.
Ball put the exclamation point on the night for Wisconsin with his fourth touchdown run, this time from 15 yards out, with 5:11 left to end the scoring.
Nebraska maintained possession the rest of the game and drove to the Wisconsin 1, but did not score on 2nd-and-Goal from the 1 with 12 seconds left.
Nebraska returns home after back-to-back road games to play Ohio State on Saturday, Oct. 8. Kickoff between the Huskers and Buckeyes in their first meeting at Memorial Stadium in history, is set for 7 p.m. with live television coverage by ABC.
Final: #7 Wisconsin 48, #8 Nebraska 17
Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011
Camp Randall Stadium (Madison, Wis.)
First Quarter (7-7)
NU - 6:02 - Taylor Martinez 1 run (Brett Maher kick) - 9 plays, 39 yards, 3:14, NU 7-0
WIS - 1:27 - Montee Ball 1 run (Philip Welch kick) - 9 plays, 91 yards, 4:31, 7-7
Second Quarter (WIS, 27-14)
NU - 12:45 - Rex Burkhead 1 run (Maher kick) - 10 plays, 74 yards, 3:36, NU 14-7
WIS - 9:48 - Ball 3 run (Welch kick blocked) - 6 plays, 77 yards, 2:50, NU 14-13
WIS - 2:03 - Jared Abbrederis 36 pass from Russell Wilson (Welch kick) - 6 plays, 54 yards, 2:49, WIS 20-14
WIS - 0:32 - Nick Toon 46 pass from Wilson (Welch kick) - 5 plays, 63 yards, 0:46
Third Quarter (WIS, 41-14)
WIS - 11:21 - Wilson 10 run (Welch kick) - 7 plays, 42 yards, 3:25, WIS 34-14
WIS - 2:36 - Ball 4 run (Welch kick) - 14 plays, 81 yards, 7:06, WIS 41-14
Fourth Quarter (WIS, 48-17)
NU - 13:35 - Maher 32 FG - 10 plays, 52 yards, 3:56, WIS 41-17
WIS - 5:11 - Ball 15 run (Welch kick) - 13 plays, 73 yards, 8:15, WIS 48-17
Final: #7 Wisconsin 48, #8 Nebraska 17
Time of Game: 3:22
Game Start: 7:12 p.m. (central)