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Grading Wisconsin’s win vs. Purdue

The defense bailed out the Badgers against the Boilermakers.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In a weekend of bizarre upsets, the Wisconsin Badgers got a taste of the bad medicine before salvaging a tougher-than-it-needed-to-be 17–9 home win over the Purdue Boilermakers.

The game was marked by the BTN announcers reminding us that freshman Jonathan Taylor had a chance to be the first running back to break 1,000 yards in his first six games approximately every 13 seconds.

Though Taylor just missed the milestone, Wisconsin managed to grab the ‘W’ despite some truly horrific offensive play.

Here are the unit grades:

Offense: D


The offense racked up 494 total yards but turned the ball over three times.

Taylor continued his strong play, racking up 224 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown that opened the scoring. He also had a fumble inside the five-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter.

Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook went 13-of-18 for 199 yards and a touchdown. He had a few flashes, including an incredibly tough throw falling down to avoid a sack in the third quarter and a couple of nice passes to sophomore wide receiver Quintez Cephus (100 yards and a touchdown, including a critical first down late in the fourth quarter).

Despite the positives, Hornibrook looked shaky at times, including several costly interceptions that killed Wisconsin’s offensive momentum throughout the game. He also laid out receiver Danny Davis on a high pass over the middle that led to a leg injury for the freshman.

The offense ground down at critical junctures, putting an enormous amount of pressure on the defense.

Defense: A-

Wisconsin’s defense kept the Badgers in the game all day long, including holding strong deep in their own end after turnovers. The defense finished the game with three sacks, allowing Purdue 155 passing yards and 66 rushing yards.

Senior linebacker Leon Jacobs may have saved the game when he picked off Boilermakers quarterback Elijah Sindelar as Purdue drove deep into Wisconsin’s zone midway through the fourth quarter.

That was just one of several huge stands the Badgers’ defense made throughout the game.

The first came after Purdue linebacker Garrett Hudson blocked a punt midway through the second quarter. Wisconsin sacked Purdue quarterback David Blough twice to push the Boilermakers back from deep in the Badgers’ zone. Purdue came away short-handed from that drive, ultimately missing a 42-yard attempt.

Wisconsin stayed strong even after its defensive depth took a hit when defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk left with a leg injury and junior linebacker T.J. Edwards was ejected on a dubious targeting penalty.

Special Teams: C-

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone made all of his kicks, including a tough 46-yarder that just bent inside the uprights.

Punter Anthony Lotti had one punt for 44 yards along with the aforementioned blocked punt when Hudson came through unblocked.

Kick-off specialists Zach Hintze and P.J. Rosowski put three of four kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks.

Coaching: D+

Penalties killed Wisconsin all game long as the Badgers finished with eight penalties for 65 yards.

The blocked punt came on blown protection on special teams.

The Badgers Twitter-tariat went bonkers about Taylor’s utilization after Purdue cut the lead to eight. Head coach Paul Chryst may have felt the same way because the Boilermakers subsequently got a heaping dose of the freshmen on the subsequent series (which ended with a Taylor fumble at the five-yard line).

As loath as I am to agree with the Twitter eggs, Taylor disappeared at times in the second and third quarters as the Badgers’ offense sagged; one wonders if that will influence play-calling in the future.

The use of running back (and former high school quarterback) Garrett Groshek in the Wildcat late in the game kept a critical drive alive.

Overall: C-

Well, that wasn’t very much fun.

Purdue is a well-coached team on the rise, but the game was closer than it needed to be. Wisconsin left a ton of points on the field because of turnovers and sloppy play.

The defense’s heroic play kept the game from turning into a total debacle. With a not-terrible Maryland team coming to town next week, the play will need to tighten up on offense and special teams to avoid another upset alert.

Follow Jon on Twitter @jbei013.