By TOM LEA
INDIANAPOLIS — Considering the hit Devin Smith took — the senior cornerback said he never saw it coming — it was somewhat surprising to see him walk off the field under his own power.
Wisconsin had just extended its lead to 49-10 after a nine-yard Montee Ball touchdown run. Taylor Martinez, looking to generate any semblance of offensive momentum, fired a pass to Jamal Turner.
Turner caught the pass, turned it up field, rounded toward the sideline before cutting back across the field and scoring what would have been a 55-yard touchdown. But his teammate and fellow wide receiver Kenny Bell was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty after absolutely destroying Smith.
Replays seemed to show Bell sizing up Smith for a second or two before delivering the crushing blow, one that sent Smith airbone before he awkwardly landed on his back (with his feet nearly above his head).
UW’s top receiver laid on the ground, motionless, for a handful of minutes before walking off under his own power. Bell, in a classy gesture, approached Smith as he walked off the field to see how he was doing.
Smith did not return to the game, but did speak with reporters inside the UW locker room.
“I’m okay now,” he said. “My voice is getting back. My ribs hurt a little bit. My head was hurting throughout the game, but it’s a lot better now. I haven’t taken any X-Rays. We’ll take some when I get back to Madison.”
At this time it’s unknown how long Smith will remain sidelined, but he seemed to be in good spirits following the win.
“I think it would have been a lot more painful if we would have lost the game,” Smith said. “A win definitely eases the pain a lot. I’m really happy we were able to make history tonight.”
Smith wasn’t the only UW defensive back to suffer a game-ending injury. Freshman corner Darius Hillary suffered a head injury early in the game and did not return.
He said he took the bulk of a hit when trying to make a tackle early and that he could tell he wasn’t entirely right when he returned to the sideline. With a month between now and Wisconsin’s next game, the chances of Hillary returning seem to be good.
-Montee Ball was named Big Ten championship game MVP. He finished the game with 21 carries for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
-Taylor Martinez finished with 324 total yards, but he threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and took six sacks.
-Brendan Kelly and Tyler Dippel both recorded two sacks against Nebraska.
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