Brendan Kelly, Badgers football vs. Ohio State

Wisconsin Badgers defensive lineman Brendan Kelly (97) pressures Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) in the third quarter of a game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. M.P. King-State Journal

University of Wisconsin defensive ends Brendan Kelly and Pat Muldoon watched the last meeting with Nebraska from linebacker A.J. Fenton's apartment along with a couple of other injured teammates.

It was manageable for the first half as the Badgers shot out to a 20-3 lead. It quickly turned to agony in the third quarter as the Cornhuskers rallied to pull out a 30-27 win on Sept. 29 in Lincoln, Neb.

"It was rough," Kelly said. "We were yelling at the TV. We knew the play calls, we knew what our defense was doing. We were pretty amped up to start with that first half. In that third quarter, I probably aged three or four years."

Senior strong safety Shelton Johnson made the trip and was on the sideline at Memorial Stadium, but he was unable to play due to a broken right arm he suffered three weeks earlier.

In fact, Nebraska's arrival in the Big Ten Conference is mostly a rumor to Johnson, who also missed UW's 48-17 victory last season over the Cornhuskers with a calf injury.

"Both of them were huge games I wasn't able to participate in," Johnson said.

All that will be rectified in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis on Saturday night, when Kelly, Muldoon and Johnson are expected to play in the rematch against Nebraska (10-2).

"We're going along this week," Kelly said with a big grin on his face. "I'm so pumped up. If that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what can."

The Badgers (7-5) gave up season highs in points, total yards (440) and rushing yards (259) in the September game in Lincoln. But they believe it will be a different defense this time around.

"Any time you're missing three guys that have been in your starting lineup, that makes a difference, without a doubt," defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge said.

In addition, starting defensive end David Gilbert was benched at the start of the September game by Partridge for comments made about Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. That left Tyler Dippel and Konrad Zagzebski, the fourth and fifth defensive ends, as the starters. Gilbert was held out three of the first four defensive plays before resuming his normal role.

"I'm more ready physically than I was for the first game," Gilbert said. "It's going to be exciting to come out there and get a second chance at redemption, for a great opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl for the third time. That's our ultimate goal."

All of the injuries and turmoil at defensive end certainly didn't help in facing Martinez — who had 107 rushing yards, including a key 38-yard touchdown on a quarterback draw in the third quarter that ignited the comeback. It included a missed tackle by Michael Trotter, who replaced Johnson.

Martinez, whose throwing motion was criticized by Gilbert, also had the last laugh in that regard, passing for 181 yards and two scores.

Not only are the Badgers healthier this time around, they have the experience of shutting down another top dual-threat quarterback in Ohio State's Braxton Miller. He was held to a season-low 145 combined yards in Ohio State's 21-14 overtime victory Nov. 17 at Camp Randall Stadium.

Miller and Martinez are dangerous runners, but they have different styles.

"There are a lot of people who think, `(Martinez) is a mobile quarterback. Braxton Miller's a mobile quarterback, same thing,'"Kelly said. "No. Get that out of your head. These are two different quarterbacks.

"Braxton Miller is a shake-and-bake guy. Martinez is a track star, he'll burn you. He can get out any which way."

Still, the same basics apply. The Badgers will likely have a variation of the approach they used against Miller in which a couple of rushers contained, while a couple of others tried to generate pressure.

"They've got to be really disciplined, but at the same time, not scared," Partridge said. "That's a delicate line to walk. If you shut down the pass rush, he's got too good of an arm to do that."

As good as the scheme was against Miller, middle linebacker Chris Borland said it came down to several players on defense playing their best games.

"Martinez is probably a little faster than Miller, maybe he doesn't cut as well," said Borland, who is expected to return Saturday night after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. "But you can make the argument he's a better runner even and they utilize him more so in designed quarterback runs. It's going to be important for everybody to step up."


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