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Alternates give battle new look


February 17. 2013 4:33AM


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LINCOLN, Neb. — It's not as if Saturday night's Wisconsin-Nebraska game needs more buildup.


After all, it's the Big Ten opener, the 22nd-ranked Cornhuskers (3-1) are looking to pay back the two-time defending champion Badgers (3-1) for the beat-down they got last year, and both teams will wear alternate uniforms for the first time.


A little more spice was added to the budding rivalry when Wisconsin defensive end David Gilbert offered up some game-week trash talk.


Gilbert told a Madison, Wis., reporter that Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is a "soft kid" and that he didn't believe Martinez was any better a passer than the one who threw three game-turning interceptions last year.


"A lot of emotions are going to be in the game," Nebraska safety P.J. Smith said, "but we need to channel that and settle it down and just go out there and do the things we're supposed to do."


Both teams have plenty to prove.


Nebraska's three wins came against overmatched opponents. The Huskers' loss came on the road to UCLA in a game in which the Bruins amassed 653 yards, the second-most ever by a Nebraska opponent.


Leaders Division favorite Wisconsin, for its part, hasn't acted like a two-time defending conference champion. The Badgers barely beat FCS-level Northern Iowa, then lost at Oregon State and fired their offensive line coach. They needed Utah State to miss a last-second field goal to win 16-14, and then won 37-26 against UTEP.


"I'm excited because this club that I'm coaching has gotten better the last two weeks without a doubt," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "We made some changes. We made some obvious changes, ones that are well-documented. There are a lot of changes that no one (in the media) has any idea what we did."


In addition to Bielema firing offensive line coach Mike Markuson and replacing him with second-year graduate assistant Bart Miller, the Badgers benched starting quarterback Danny O'Brien in favor of Joel Stave.


Stave was effective in his first start, completing 12 of 17 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown against UTEP's 94th-ranked defense. The redshirt freshman will find the going tougher at Memorial Stadium.


"It should be a good atmosphere, and I'm anticipating that the fans will be excited," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "It's a night game, and with everything involved, the fans are going to be pretty juiced up for this one."


UP NEXT


WISCONSIN


at



NEBRASKA


8:07 p.m.


tonight, ABC





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