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Grading Wisconsin’s win vs. Iowa

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A dominant defensive performance covers a sloppy Badgers offense.

Iowa v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

MADISON — What on earth was that?

Wisconsin’s 38–14 win over Iowa on Saturday was a sloppy affair that saw the teams combine for seven turnovers, three defensive scores, and wide stretches of dreadful offense.

Here are the unit grades.

Offense: C-

The Wisconsin offense turned the ball over four times, yet still managed 382 yards and 31 offensive points.

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook had three interceptions, extending his interception streak to seven straight games. The redshirt sophomore had two pick-sixes, the first after staring down receiver A.J. Taylor, returned by Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson on the first series of the game, and the second also going to Jackson in the third quarter on an overthrow to running back Rachid Ibrahim on a 3rd-and-long.

Wide receiver Kendric Pryor grabbed two scores on the day. The redshirt freshman took a handoff 25 yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. Pryor added his first career receiving touchdown later in the quarter, catching a 12-yard Hornibrook pass for the score.

True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor finished the day with 157 yards but had two fumbles, including one lost. Running back Bradrick Shaw gained 47 yards with an eight-yard touchdown run.

Defense: A+

Once again, Wisconsin’s defense picked up a struggling offense. The 66 total yards allowed is the fewest ever to a Big Ten opponent. Saturday’s play ranks only behind UW’s 2005 performance against Temple (giving up only 45 yards in 2005).

The Badgers’ defense pounded the Hawkeyes, holding Iowa to just 20 total yards in the first half and only one first down. The Badgers grabbed two sacks in the half, including an Olive Sagapolu hit that nearly led to a Wisconsin safety.

The second half saw more of the same, as the Hawkeyes netted just 46 yards in the half as the Badgers’ completed the defensive shutout. Outside linebacker Leon Jacobs recovered two fumbles, including a 21-yard touchdown return midway through the third quarter. Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards snared an interception late in the third quarter, killing Iowa’s best drive to that point.

Special Teams: B

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone converted his only field-goal attempt as well as all of his PATs. Sophomore punter Anthony Lotti had five punts, averaging 43.6 yards, including a gorgeous 59-yarder in the second quarter that pinned Iowa at the seven-yard line and a field-flipping 62-yarder late in the first half that rolled dead at the eight. Nick Nelson broke a 25-yard punt return with 2.5 minutes left in the first half to put the Badgers inside the 30.

Coaching: C-

Offensive mental errors and ball security continue to be an issue. Hornibrook’s pick-sixes were Iowa’s most potent offensive weapon, putting the Badgers into a hole less than two minutes into the game and giving the Hawkeyes new life in the third quarter. Taylor fumbled with seven minutes left in the first half, giving Iowa the ball at midfield. Hornibrook had a poor exchange with back-up center Jason Erdmann after Tyler Biadasz left with a leg injury, though Hornibrook recovered the fumble.

Penalties in key spots hurt. A false-start penalty by tight end Kyle Penniston inside the one-foot line in the first quarter backed Wisconsin up, costing the Badgers four points when they could not convert the longer first down. Left guard Jon Dietzen had a very costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter, leading to Hornibrook’s second pick-six just a play later. Erdmann had a holding call in the fourth quarter that negated a Taylor touchdown.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s defense was all over the field, bottling up the Hawkeyes and answering the call every time the offense turned the ball over.

Overall: C+

For as dominant as the defense’s performance was, the offense’s miscues were a cause for major concern. A well-played offensive game would have gone a long way towards addressing some of the questions about Wisconsin’s suitability as a playoff team. Despite the final score, many questions still remain.

Student Section: D

Holy hell, student section. Where was everybody at the start of the game? Wide swaths of the north end were still open at the start of the second quarter. Section L never did totally fill up, and O and P also had some open rows.