MADISON — This game had slobberknocker written all over it, and it didn’t disappoint.
The two most physical teams in the Big Ten butted heads for 60 minutes on Saturday, ultimately ending in a 24–10 Wisconsin Badgers victory over the Michigan Wolverines. In the first half, a slow start was electrified when cornerback Nick Nelson watched a punt hit the ground, hesitated just a second, and then proceeded to pick it up and take it to the crib. A largely defensive first half continued after the punt return, sans a 48-yard reception by Donovan Peoples-Jones that set up Michigan’s only score of the first half.
The second half started how the first half went, a defensive slugfest with the teams trading punts. After a questionable review on what looked to be a possible Michigan touchdown, Leon Jacobs forced a fumble from Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters inside the 5-yard line. On the next play, however, Alex Hornibrook threw an interception deep in Wisconsin territory that would lead to a Wolverine field goal.
That’s the last lead the Wolverines held, as the next Badger drive ended in a touchdown following two beautiful throws from Hornibrook to A.J. Taylor. The next possession for Michigan ended in a three-and-out, but most importantly, Peters was knocked out of the game by a legal hit from Andrew Van Ginkel, forcing the Wolverines to resort to backup John O’Korn. Wisconsin scored again on the next possession. For the second week in a row, Kendric Lamar Jackson Pryor scored on an end-around, featuring big blocks from Tyler Biadasz and Beau Benzschawel.
The lead proved to be too much for the Wolverines, who struggled offensively before the injury to Peters. Wisconsin improves to 11–0, and will face Minnesota for the Axe and an undefeated regular-season record.
Here’s what we learned on Saturday:
1. This defense continues to be the real deal
The Badgers’ defense shouldered the load throughout the first half before the offense finally game it some breathing room in the second half. While the defense didn’t get as many sacks as it did in previous games, a lot of pressure got to Peters, which forced him to eventually get knocked out of the game. The defense has been the team’s hallmark all season, and it was again on Saturday.
2. Hornibrook is a glutton for punishment
OK, so obviously this is said completely facetiously, but Hornibrook’s ability to bounce back from mistakes has been very impressive this season. Against the Wolverines was no different, as after a pretty poor decision, Hornibrook completed two of the better throws he’s had this season to give the Badgers a lead they never relinquished.
Hornibrook out here throwing dimes pic.twitter.com/80WHemqx0l— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 18, 2017
A lot of criticism has been throw at Hornibrook, and he’s taken it much better than most would, especially considering he’s 20 years old. Hornibrook is the QB of this team, like it or not.
3. What was once a dream can now be a reality
Who would have thought that the Wisconsin Badgers could have a real chance at going 12–0 heading into the Big Ten Championship Game? OK, so some of you thought it was a possibility. However, the act of actually winning 12 football games in a row is incredibly difficult. Minnesota, coming off of a butt-whipping from Northwestern, will undoubtedly be be frothing from the mouth and ready after P.J. Fleck gives the Gophers the most motivational speech he can muster.
However, if Wisconsin executes and handles its business, the Badgers should go 12–0, and enter the Big Ten Championship Game undefeated. Woof.