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X’s and O’s

In this week’s edition of X’s and O’s, Nick Scoliard looks back at some of the key plays from last Saturday’s Big Ten Championship.

Last Friday, Wisconsin repeated their Big Ten championship title from last year with an impressive win over Nebraska. While many (myself included) thought Nebraska would pull one out after a close game, Wisconsin scored quickly and never stopped. It was 42-10 going into halftime, meaning that the rest of the game was basically garbage time. Because of the meaningless 2nd half, I thought it would be good to look at some meaningful plays from the first half when the game was actually close. First, the amazing 72 yard touchdown run from Taylor Martinez.

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After only 3 minutes of game time, Wisconsin was up 14-0 after Martinez’s first pass attempt was intercepted for a touchdown. After getting to 3rd and 1 on their 34 yard line, the Huskers committed a false start and then a delay of game penalty to give them 3rd and 11 at their own 24. They come out in shotgun trips right, while the Badgers press the line, showing a man blitz. The ball is snapped, and indeed, the Badgers blitz 5, and Brendan Kelly escapes the line and barrels towards Martinez.

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Instead of losing 10 yards on a sack, Martinez pulls off one of the best runs of the year, going 72 yards for the touchdown untouched. Martinez spins to his right, where he is met by Tuler Dippel, who was being blocked by Brent Qvale, the LT, and Antony Ridder, the RB, yet still gets free. Martinez jukes him out but is met by Kelly again and Andrew Green.

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Martinez pump fakes, which slows Green down, but then runs left to get outside of Green. Kelly dives at Martinez, and is maybe a finger length away from tackling him. Now, Martinez is met with Pat Muldoon and Mike Taylor, who are trying to gain leverage to force him out of bounds for a loss of yards (yes he is still behind the line of scrimmage).

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Instead, Martinez takes a hard 45 degree cut, and runs right past the two defenders. Now, Martinez goes right to the middle of the field and runs straight to the end zone.

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He finally gets some key blocks from Jamal Turner and Quincy Enuwa (under the Fox Box), giving him the entire right side of the field open (although Enuwa’s block could be considered holding). He runs straight to the endzone, and is followed only by Marcus Cromartie. On the 25 yard line, Kenny Bell gives a great block and push to give Martinez some space to cut back to the left side and go in for the touchdown. 72 yards, 3 blocks, and some amazing moves from Martinez. On runs this long, usually the runner gets a lot of blocks or breaks a lot of tackles, or both, but here Martinez goes untouched with only 3 downfield blocks. Before midfield, Martinez had no help as 6 offensive players – the O-line and Rex Burkhead – let rushers attack Martinez and stood around without blocking anyone. It’s amazing that Martinez got to midfield without a block or being touched. He was able to run just by making cuts, jukes, spins, and taking the better angles. I will say that the rest of the offense and the entire defense looked sluggish on the field. They looked to be jogging and not giving any effort; it was as if Martinez was on fast forward. Just an impressive run for Martinez to put his team in a position to win….but they were then outscored 28-3 the rest of the half. But for one moment, the Huskers had a chance.

Until the Badgers really put the last bullet in the chamber with a trick play right out of NFL Street. (Black for the Huskers, Purple for the Badgers)

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After getting a first down and getting into Nebraska territory, the Badgers come out in shotgun formation, with no backfield. I think the Huskers were blitzing in man, but it’s hard to tell because of what happens during the play. The Badgers run a sweep to the right by left wideout Jared Abberderis. They really sell this by shifting the line right and having James White block his defender. When the defense sees the handoff, they all believe the run. The linebackers come in to blitz, and the defensive backs bite and take a step in. Abberderis turns around between the hashmarks and looks to Curt Phillips, the QB. Phillips had slipped past the defenders, and was unnoticed down the sideline. Setting himself, Abberderis throws a good spiral to Phillips who catches it with plenty of room. What was even better was that Abberderis was facing a lot of pressure, and had a defender in his face, yet still sets himself and throws well. His throwing motion isn’t pretty, but it gets the job done.

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Even though Phillips was wide open on the sideline, the corner, Andrew Green, turns around from his receiver and tackles Phillips before he reaches the endzone. White runs it in on the next play to put the Badgers up 28-10, giving themselves a good lead to hold off the Huskers (just in case they scored 42 more points just for insurance). Wisconsin was able to put themselves in the Rose Bowl from plays like these which they executed perfectly. From here the Badgers outscored the Huskers 42-21, most of those points coming in meaningless garbage time (there was a lot of garbage time in this game). Even though they let Martinez have that monster run, the Badgers won handily, and will face Stanford in their third-straight Rose Bowl, relegating Nebraska to the Capital One Bowl.

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