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Nebraska-Wisconsin: Three things we learned, and three things we still don't know

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LINCOLN — Three things we learned and three things we still don't know about the Huskers coming out of Saturday's 15-14 loss to Wisconsin. 

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Three things we know

A run defense can only hold on for so long before it relents in the cold

Nebraska’s defense absorbed body blow after body blow from the Badgers, who consistently broke off five, six, seven yards against NU’s front seven, never hitting the big one. While body blows may not be uppercuts, they still leave a mark, and they eventually pushed NU’s gas tank to empty. It’s a reminder: Line of scrimmage matters, Nebraska doesn’t win it nearly enough, and while the Huskers can play close — they have to learn to control those three yards on either side of the ball. Wisconsin did it; Nebraska didn’t.

The sellout streak survived — barely — and the Nebraska/Wisconsin crowd at kickoff underlined the cosmetic nature of it

The cold weather and 3-7 record guaranteed a sparser Memorial Stadium than usual. But the crowd on hand at 11 a.m. was a sobering reminder that even Husker fans have limits, and they reached it. Nebraska’s stout effort warmed up a chilled crowd, though and, by the fourth quarter, the fans on hand had a loud HUSKER POWER chant.

Wisconsin has some stuff to figure out, too.

The Badgers may or may not have their permanent head coach in Jim Leonhard — he seems far more likely to get that role than does NU interim head coach Mickey Joseph — but Wisconsin’s offense has a woof quality to it. Quarterback Graham Mertz threw a head-scratching interception into the wind that set up Nebraska’s first touchdown.

Three things we still don't know

An answer to the biggest question: Who will be Nebraska’s permanent coach?

Inquiring minds in Husker Nation would love to know, even if the chances of knowing before Thanksgiving seem quite slim. NU is likely to pursue a sitting head coach, so an announcement seems slated for next weekend or early December. Either way — it can’t come any sooner. Nebraska needs to turn the page.

Whether Casey Thompson has played his final game in Memorial Stadium

Thompson walked on Senior Day. He’s already graduated from the University of Texas, and he turns 25 in the offseason, so, should he return, it’d be under a fourth head coach and third offensive coordinator in three seasons. Saturday felt like the end for a one-year mercenary who, like Tanner Lee in 2017, deserved better than he got from his defense and administration.

Setting aside Mickey Joseph — does interim Nebraska defensive coordinator Bill Busch find a way on the next coaching staff?

Busch in September took over the unstable unit that cost NU wins against Northwestern and Georgia Southern. The Huskers have had bumps in the road since then, but no one can argue that Nebraska’s defense has grown by leaps and bounds since Oklahoma dropped 49 points. Does that earn Busch some points? It darn well should. He’s a local who likes/loves to recruit and clearly can reach players.

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