Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, 10/7/17

Wisconsin linebacker Chris Orr returns a first-quarter interception for a touchdown at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star

Chris Orr brought flashbacks to the Memorial Stadium crowd when the Wisconsin defender grabbed a deflected pass out of the air and raced 78 yards the other way for a pick-six on Nebraska's opening drive Saturday.

It was eerily similar to three weeks ago, when Nebraska marched down the field on the game's opening drive only to have Northern Illinois' Shawun Lurry pick off a Tanner Lee pass and return it for a touchdown.

A similar scenario unfolded in NU's 38-17 loss Saturday. Facing third-and-2 from the Badger 17-yard line, Lee fired a pass into the flat to Devine Ozigbo. The ball bounced off Ozigbo's facemask and into the hands of Orr, who went the other way.

Lee said the Huskers practiced that play maybe 15 times this week.

"I don't know that in a practice or a game that we've incompleted that ball, let alone thrown a pick-six on it off of a head," NU coach Mike Riley said. "It's a pretty ridiculous play."

What did offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf see on the play?

"He's (Ozigbo) wide-open and it's a touchdown," he said. "Why we call it is we think it's going to score, and probably should have, but it didn't work out that way."

Ozigbo had rushed for 13, 2 and 6 yards on the drive prior to the pick-six, Lee's fourth of the season.

Langsdorf defended the play call, saying the Huskers had run the play numerous times in practice.

"Jam it in there when they've got a lot of people in the box on third and (2)," Langsdorf said when asked why not run the ball on the play. "It's the same thing, you do that and then you have to kick the field goal, (and) 'Well, why didn't you throw it?'

"If you look at it from the review, I think it's a touchdown play, but it didn't turn out that way, so it's a bad call."

Lee sharp: Langsdorf said Lee bounced back from the freak pick-six play nicely.

The junior completed 16 of 32 passes for 262 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown strike to Stanley Morgan in the second quarter.

The offensive line provided Lee time to throw on most passing plays.

"I thought he was really sharp," Langsdorf said. "Thought he got rid of the ball, made some great decisions, gave our guys chances to make plays."

Nebraska's offensive line did not allow a sack until the last drive. Wisconsin had 16 sacks entering the game.

Ozigbo carries the load: Nebraska rushed the ball 26 times. One was a Patrick O'Brien sack, and two were Lee carries. So, Ozigbo carried the load, finishing with 112 yards on 23 carries.

That was expected coming in. Tre Bryant continues to battle a knee injury, and Mikale Wilbon was dealing with an ankle injury. Langsdorf said the Huskers realized Saturday morning that Wilbon would not be able to go.

Riley said Wilbon was available in an emergency situation. 

Squeezing in one more play: Nebraska faced second-and-1 with 6 seconds left before halftime, and kept the offense on the field.

Lee completed a 5-yard pass to Ozigbo, who was able to get a foot out of bounds with 1 second left. Had NU run out of time, it would have trailed 17-7. Instead, a Drew Brown field goal cut the deficit to 17-10.

Langsdorf said the intent was to get a "fastball play" off.

"We're just trying to get a cheap one and get that thing out of bounds," Langsdorf said. "We've practice that stuff, we've timed it."

Riley explains fourth-down decision: Facing fourth-and-5 from the Wisconsin 39 early in the second quarter, Riley opted to punt rather than go for a first down.

“The 40-to-33 is my gray area right in there,” Riley said. “And a lot of times it is four-down (territory), but I did not feel great about giving them any kind of short field at the time. So I decided to punt.”

Sophomore punter Caleb Lightbourn’s punt, though, sailed into the end zone, resulting in just 19 yards gained.

UW drove 61 yards to tack on a Rafael Gaglianone field goal for a 10-0 lead.

Morgan climbing charts: Morgan caught four passes for a career-high 115 yards, including three for 100 before halftime. It was Morgan's third 100-yard receiving game of the year. 

Morgan's 510 receiving yards through six games are the second-most in school history. Johnny Rodgers had 521 through six games in 1972.

Quick hits: NU senior De'Mornay Pierson-El became the 26th Husker with 1,000 career receiving yards. … Lightbourn boomed a career-high 69-yard punt in the second quarter. He also had 57-yarder. "I got lucky, because the first one was a pretty bad punt and they gave me a mulligan, essentially. So I was able to take advantage of that and refocus,” Lightbourn said of his career-best boot. “I knew (it would be good) as soon as the ball was snapped, because it was a perfect snap. I knew as soon as it hit my hands it would be good, because it was perfect. The laces were up and everything.” … Redshirt freshman defender Ben Stille made his first career start. He had a tackle.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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