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Upon further review: Thoughts on Wisconsin’s win vs. Northwestern

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Sunday morning reflections on Wisconsin’s big road win.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Daylight Savings Time sucks.

As a parent, I mind you. As a college kid, I loved getting that extra hour to type up that paper I procrastinated on for three weeks, or really, just sleeping. Now with three kids, including a rambunctious set of twins nearly turning two that don’t know nor care about time, my wife and I have been up for a few hours already.

Enough about my on-going sleep deprivation. The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Northwestern Wildcats 21-7, and with the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes shellacking the No. 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers to the tune of 62-3 (*Luke Cage voice* “Sweet Christmas”), UW now can win out and head to Indianapolis for the conference title game as the Big Ten West Division champ.

Saturday’s game in Evanston was decided by an again-strong defensive performance that stiffened up especially in the second half and a running game energized by its standout running back (and two other unlikely contributors).

Play of the Game

Northwestern was driving down the field after senior placekicker Andrew Endicott’s missed 51-yard attempt. The series ended up being an eight-play, 34-yard drive, but the Wildcats made it to the Badgers’ 19-yard line and threatened to take a 14-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.

This may be two “plays” of the game, but the holding call on Eric Olson backed the NU offense back to the 29. That was a huge momentum changer, pushing the Wildcats back after they hit on a 32-yard reception to Austin Carr and another eight yard catch.

Then some stout defense by the Badgers—a quarterback hurry by Alec James and tackle for loss on running back Justin Jackson—forced a third-and-21 from the 30-yard line. Junior nose tackle/defensive end Conor Sheehy sacked quarterback Clayton Thorson with some help from outside linebacker Garret Dooley, who also did a magnificent job spinning back to the quarterback who stepped up in the pocket. The fumble from Sheehy’s hit was recovered by safety D’Cota Dixon, who would then return it 22 yards.

That play changed the course of the game. Instead of a 13-10 Wisconsin lead, or a 14-13 Northwestern advantage, UW marched down the field and running back Corey Clement scored from two yards out. With Alec Ingold’s two-point conversion, the Badgers went up 21-7 and the defense never looked back.

Game Balls

The defense’s pressure on the quarterback: This is a group award, but deserved. The Badgers only sacked Thorson twice on the afternoon, but one included the strip-sack that changed the fortune of the game. In total, UW was credited with eight hurries. The constant pressure, often from what seemed like four-man rushes, forced Thorson to make some bad throws. Northwestern was only 5-of-18 on third downs.

Jazz Peavy: The redshirt junior wide receiver did it all on Saturday, accumulating 144 all-purpose yards in the win. Three of his four receptions moved the chains, and he’s now tied for the team lead in receptions (31). His 24-yard punt return set the stage for the Badgers to go up by six in the third quarter.

Peavy’s 46-yard end around for a touchdown was that “shot play” that worked out quite well for the Badgers. Despite some errant time management at the end of both halves by head coach Paul Chryst, he made some great play calls. Peavy has taken advantage of his opportunities, a common theme with this team.

Anthony Lotti: It’s been a rough first year for the true freshman punter from Georgia, but he stepped up in a huge way against Northwestern. Six of his seven punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. In a tough road environment where field position was critical, Lotti did his job. I hope fans understand the Sam Veit reference below; Lotti has a much more powerful leg than the former Racine Case player, but Veit was critical in ensuring tough field position for opponents from 1991-94.

What to watch for this week

T.J. Watt’s status. Watt was in obvious pain with his shoulder at times during the game. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway reported in his notebook that the redshirt junior said it’s just a “shooting pain” and he has to work through it, but it’s something to monitor as the Badgers look to continue their three-game winning streak on Homecoming.

Bradrick Shaw’s carries. He carried the ball 11 times for 54 yards in Saturday’s win, and it appears the redshirt freshman’s production is heating up. You can see on some of his runs, including that 21-yard touchdown run against Nebraska last week, that he displays patience in waiting for his blockers to make their play. It’s an exciting development for the former four-star standout. Fans don’t have to wait until next year to see what the Hoover, Ala., back can do when given the chance.

Another book signing. #CheapPlug! Stay tuned for a “Walk-On This Way” book signing and discussion next weekend in downtown Madison before the Illinois game. More details to follow, with hopefully a couple of former walk-ons joining us.