• Video Below: See World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust break down NU's loss to Wisconsin
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• Photo Showcase: NU-Wisconsin (action)
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LINCOLN — Flash back to four specific Wisconsin snaps Saturday night to illustrate that the Nebraska defense is not making plays and not quite getting what it needs from any position on that unit.
• Third-and-6, three plays into the game: Defensive tackle Jared Crick races in free but whiffs as quarterback Russell Wilson sidesteps the rush, then Badger receiver Jared Abbrederis gets the better of cornerback Ciante Evans downfield on a 21-yard pass play.
• First-and-10, late first quarter: Wilson eludes defensive end Cameron Meredith, this time in the backfield, then jukes linebacker Sean Fisher in the open field on his way to a 21-yard run.
• First-and-10, early second quarter: Evans and safety Daimion Stafford have Nick Toon well covered on a long throw from Wilson, only to have Toon go over them and pull down a 38-yard reception.
• Third-and-8, midway through the third quarter: Wilson, again under duress, dumps a ball to tight end Jacob Pedersen, who shimmies up the middle of the field for a 16-yard gain, which would have been worse if not for a diving Lavonte David tackle. It's one of four third-down conversions on that drive and one of eight for the game.
There were more, of course, as the Badgers piled up 48 points and 486 total yards at Camp Randall Stadium. But those stood out because of the opportunity each time for Nebraska to stop what eventually happened.
"We've had issues all year, and they just did a nice job of exposing the issues that we have," NU defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. "We've got to get those corrected if we're going to play good defense this year."
It's been five games, though, for a defense that was pretty salty from start to finish each of the last two years. Which led to a question asked of Pelini on Saturday night of the last time he remembers getting this deep into a season with so many questions still out there.
"It reminds me of year one," he said. "Sad to say, but that's what it reminds me of."
Carl Pelini was speaking of 2008, when head coach Bo Pelini and an overhauled staff set out to fix the NU defense after the record-breaking failure of 2007. In a three-week span of late September and into early October, the Huskers gave up 35 points to Virginia Tech, 52 to Missouri and 37 in overtime to Texas Tech — and a few weeks later crumbled under the 62-point onslaught at Oklahoma.
Bo Pelini said the mistakes of Saturday night were ones he had seen before, in practice or in games. Then he added: "And I'll say this, it's more defensively than offensively."
"I've been saying we need to fix us," he said. "And we haven't fixed us. We got to get fixed."
Yes, there were some receivers running free that made it easy on Wilson, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 255 yards (233 in the first half). But there were also instances of proper coverage where NU defenders just didn't come through (the Toon reception being the best example).
"There were a couple of 'em I thought were going to get picked off," Bo Pelini said. "I thought we were going to get a couple interceptions ... and they come down with it. You got to make plays in this game. They did, we didn't."
It's left the Huskers with some rather unimpressive numbers heading into Saturday night's home game with Ohio State.
Nebraska ranks No. 64 in total defense (377.0 yards per game) and No. 73 in scoring defense (27.2 points per game). Opponents are converting 45.7 percent of their third downs, leaving NU at No. 97 in that category. The Husker defense hasn't forced a fumble since the first quarter of the Washington game Sept. 17, and that was the result of a shotgun snap hitting a receiver in motion.
NU has tinkered over and over with its secondary, especially at cornerback, but Carl Pelini said the inconsistent play has come at all three layers of the defense.
"For the most part (Saturday night)," Fisher said, "you could tell there wasn't a time where we did put it all together as a whole, and we didn't accomplish what we needed to."
Husker cornerback Alfonzo Dennard offered a little more critical assessment, saying the defense needs some people to step up and be leaders and that "it'll show up when we watch film that a lot of people took plays off."
"How we came out and played is not Nebraska football," Dennard said. "So we got to find ourselves."
"We've just got to keep evaluating, keep plugging holes," Carl Pelini said. "We know the scheme works. I think our guys play with good physical effort. I don't think the mental effort is there. We have way too many breakdowns mentally.
"We've got a lot of problems to fix, that's for sure."
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