The Tuesday After: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

Hannah Foslien

The Monday after Wisconsin's win over Minnesota was a little busy, so we present this column to you as The Tuesday After.

Well, Saturday's win over the rival Minnesota Golden Gophers wasn't the prettiest game Wisconsin has ever played, but 10 is the only number that really matters.

10 consecutive victories in the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe -- can it really even be called a rivalry right now? Sure, in historical context it should still be considered that, but until Minnesota puts up a real fight, I'll continue to chalk this game up as a yearly "W" for the Badgers without hesitation.

Without a doubt, Wisconsin left a lot to be desired with its inconsistency on Saturday, especially on third down, but it was a convincing win for the cardinal and white nonetheless.

The Badgers have this player that wears No. 44 who continues to dominate, and boy, does his play never get old. The fact that Chris Borland isn't a finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker is a complete farce. Gary Andersen wasn't too vocal about his disappointment during his Monday press conference, but I've got to believe the head ball coach was extremely heated inside about Borland's snub.

Anyway, let's get back to recapping the good and bad from Saturday's win over Minnesota. It's now the second-to-last one of the year, but here is our Tuesday-after diagnosis.

What we liked

Personally, I liked just about everything the defense brought to the table Saturday. Borland and company held Phillip Nelson, who entered the game as a "hot" quarterback given his play in his previous four games, to just 7-of-23 passing for only 83 yards.

Borland tied the career FBS record for fumbles forced with No. 14 on Saturday. He also led Wisconsin in total tackles with 12, one of those going for a loss.

Brendan Kelly was everywhere Saturday, playing one of the best games I've seen him play as a Badger. Three of Kelly's four tackles were for loss and two of them were sacks. He also forced a fumble in the second quarter that the Badgers then turned into a touchdown to retake the lead for good.

These guys should be getting praise in the impressive player section, but they highlighted what was ultimately a dominant defensive performance against Minnesota. It takes all 11 guys to not allow an offensive touchdown to a top-25 football team, and Wisconsin's 3-4 defense had all 11 guys on the same page Saturday to make that happen.

What needs to improve

Wisconsin's effectiveness in converting third downs continues to be a mark of concern, especially considering the Badgers are struggling to pick up those first downs against average competition.

Wisconsin was just 4-of-16 on third down Saturday, and with bowl season around the corner, the Badgers are going to be facing far better defenses than what they've faced of late. 4-of-16 won't get it done against a Clemson or a Missouri.

Also, this is a nit-picky comment, but over the season's last month, the Badgers faced two quality defenses in Minnesota and Iowa, and those happened to be two of their bigger struggles of the season on that side of the ball. I'm beginning to think about UW's bowl game on a seemingly daily basis at this point, and it is going to be against a top-10 team with an athletic defense. Wisconsin can be more efficient against better teams than it has been, there is no doubt about it.

The Badgers could have also done much more to prove the national doubters wrong with a monster win over the Gophs because it was there for the taking. You've got to capitalize and cut out the throat when the opportunity presents itself, and I was disappointed to not see that come to fruition Saturday.

Which player impressed?

Borland and Kelly both received kudos above, but how about a special mention here of the entire Wisconsin squad for the way players handled themselves after the game?

It has always been tradition that the winner of the Axe gets to chop down both goalposts after a win, but Minnesota was having none of that Saturday. What could have turned into a brawl didn't because the Badgers kept their cool in pretty remarkable fashion. After reading the postgame quotes from Wisconsin players, you could tell that they truly thought the Gophers' behavior was funny in many respects.

You've lost the rivalry game for 10 straight seasons -- go sulk in the locker room and get off the field. The Gophers' whining could have caused an unnecessary skirmish, but Wisconsin wouldn't let things escalate, and I'm proud of the Badgers for having that demeanor.

Which player underwhelmed?

Boy oh boy, it is really difficult to peg him as the underachiever of 2013, but I have to go once again with Joel Stave.

Maybe I'm tougher on Stave because I was a true believer before he went down with his broken collarbone last season, but I'm just not seeing the growth from him that I thought I would as this season has progressed.

He's not effective when teams bring pressure, case in point being the pick-six he threw in the first half. He's also not consistent on a throw-by-throw basis.

Stave will fire a dart to Jacob Pedersen on an out-route to the sideline with one pass, and next he'll dump a screen pass into a guy's feet.

Stave's 16-of-26 for 127 yards were respectable enough, but if he was a more consistent quarterback, Wisconsin's offense would be darn-near unstoppable. With two dominant running backs and teams gearing to stop the run, I just can't figure out why Stave hasn't taken the next step.

At this point in the year, it seems like that next step will have to wait until 2014.

Next up

The Penn State Nittany Lions, led by second-year head coach Bill O'Brien, trek to Madison this weekend for the Badgers' Senior Day.

I expected O'Brien's crew to take a step back this season after they outperformed just about anyone's expectations following the major NCAA sanctions that were laid down. At 6-5, Penn State has put together another respectable campaign, but I think Wisconsin runs roughshod over the Nittany Lions this weekend.

While Camp Randall Stadium might see a drop in attendance given that many students and families will be away for Thanksgiving break, I don't think that impacts Wisconsin's play on the field one iota.

Prediction: Badgers win big to cap the season off with seven straight wins: Wisconsin 45, Penn State 17.

Let's just hope a BCS at-large birth awaits.

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