Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, 10/7/17

Wisconsin running back Bradrick Shaw (7) scores during the fourth quarter Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Wisconsin beat Nebraska 38-17.

ERIC GREGORY, Journal Star

You surely remember that thing folks used to call "Sooner Magic."

It used to ruin Nebraska football seasons.

Well, how about that "Wiscy magic?"

Wisconsin pulled off quite a trick Saturday night before 89,860 spectators at Memorial Stadium.

With a 38-17 triumph, the UW program continues to pull away from Nebraska's. The Badgers are 6-1 against the Huskers since 2011, the year NU started playing in the Big Ten.

Paul Chryst's crew eked out wins against Nebraska each of the previous two seasons. But it brought the hammer in this game, showing in a forceful manner why folks regard Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) as the clear-cut favorite in the West Division.

Nebraska (3-3, 2-1) looks destined to go a fifth straight season without a division championship, and 18th without a conference title.

Yes, Wisconsin's program continues to pull away from Nebraska's.

So, what's the trick here?

The Badgers pull away while simultaneously pounding away like a battering ram. At least that was the case on this night. Yeah, wonderful timing. Just wonderful. Nebraska honored its 1997 national championship team in a rousing pregame ceremony. That would be the Husker team that averaged 392.7 rushing yards to lead the nation. That would be the team that would dare you to stop the run because it knew you couldn't do it.

That was Wisconsin on this gorgeous Saturday night.

The ninth-ranked Badgers rushed for 353 yards, their most in a road game since 2012.

Wisconsin simply did what Wisconsin does. It patiently imposed its will with its ground attack and hit an occasional big play through the air. Nebraska hung tough through most of three quarters, but soon the effects of UW's body blows began to show.

In the fourth quarter, the Badgers rushed 22 times for 125 yards — and never attempted a pass. 

The whole stadium knew a run play was coming, and it didn't much matter. 

The Nebraska run defense that held down Northern Illinois, Rutgers and Illinois was overmatched. 

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, a former Husker linebacker, had to be sitting back with a wide grin. This is his blueprint. It's recruit big and ornery linemen from Wisconsin or regions nearby and go to work. You can imagine the rugged nature of the Badgers' practices. Facing a downhill running game every day will make a defense leather-tough.

Wisconsin's ground attack is persistent and powerful, said Nebraska coach Mike Riley, whose record at NU dropped to 18-14.

He had his team ready for the game. Give him that. At times, Nebraska looked ready to win, particularly when junior safety Aaron Williams' pick-six tied it at 17 with 10:43 remaining in the third quarter. The stadium was up for grabs. What a scene.

"(The Badgers') response to that was pretty interesting," Riley said. "And it was very physical."

Wisconsin responded like a championship program — except for one thing. The Badgers were sloppy most of the night. On the kickoff following Williams' touchdown, UW was flagged for two penalties, and thus began the possession at its 7-yard line.

No problem. Wisconsin bulldozed a 10-play, 93-yard touchdown drive, using eight runs, including six by true freshman Jonathan Taylor. On the night, the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder carried 25 times for a season-high 249 yards and two touchdowns.

Forgive Nebraska fans if they were a tad envious. 

And forgive them if they're frustrated with the direction of Riley's program.

He realizes what he's going to hear in the days ahead. It will go something like this: Look at Wisconsin, winning big the way Nebraska used to win big.

Come to think of it, there's nothing magic about a big offensive line pulverizing you.

Riley, however, emerged with a hopeful tone.

"I think we're absolutely, with what we're doing strategically with our team, as we put it together.  ... We have to live in a world that is day-by-day, but oftentimes thinking ahead of what that big picture, in a good way, will look like," he said.

He's talking about recruiting. Nebraska always talks about recruiting. Nebraska wins the offseason with a formidable hype machine, with media playing a leading role.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin just keeps winning the West.

Riley liked some of the progress his team made with its run game and pass protection.

"It wasn't good enough progress against that team, a team that was really ready to do what they do really well," the coach said.

"Their consistency with the run in that fourth quarter ..." Riley said, his voice trailing.

"You know what that looked like," he said.

Yeah, we know what it looked like. We used to see it all the time around here.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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