LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — When Taylor Martinez and his Nebraska teammates needed an extra push to get through a summer workout, all they had to do was remember that cool October evening in Madison last year when Wisconsin gave them their Big Ten initiation.
"Just what happened last time, I keep thinking about that," Martinez said.
Revenge, of course, is a powerful motivator. And the No. 22 Cornhuskers (3-1) are using it for all it's worth heading into this Saturday's Big Ten opener against the Badgers (3-1).
"We owe these guys one," offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles said. "We all know it. We all know we need to play our best to beat these guys. We enter big-time play now, Big Ten play."
The Huskers were a popular choice to win the Big Ten in their first season in the league. They went to Madison 4-0 and ranked No. 8. The Badgers also were unbeaten and ranked No. 7.
After a promising start for the Huskers in front of a national television audience, Martinez threw three interceptions over a six-minute span of the second and third quarters. Nebraska's 14-13 lead turned into a 41-14 deficit. Final score: Wisconsin 48, Nebraska 17.
"I remember being on that field at the end of the game last year," Sirles said. "It left an awful feeling in my gut. We have to come out and play hard. We need to."
Last year's loss started Nebraska on its way to a third-place finish in the Legends Division. Wisconsin ended up winning the Leaders and going on to its second straight Big Ten championship.
Nebraska is picked to end up third again in the Legends, but based on Michigan State and Michigan's performances the first month of the season, the division looks wide open.
With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible to play in the Big Ten championship game, Wisconsin is favored to repeat in the Leaders Division.
The Huskers' 73-7 victory over Idaho State of the Football Championship Subdivision closed out an eventful nonconference schedule.
Martinez showed off his improved passing ability in the opener, throwing for a career-high 354 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-20 win over Southern Mississippi.
The next week the Huskers' defense surrendered 653 yards — second-most ever by an opponent — in a 36-30 road loss to UCLA.
Coach Bo Pelini had a health scare the following week. He left by ambulance in the middle of a 42-13 win over Arkansas State, complaining of heartburn and dizziness. Hospital tests were negative, and Pelini went back to work the next day and said he had been given a clean bill of health.