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Grading Wisconsin’s win vs. Michigan

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The Badgers grabbed a critical win against a quality opponent.

Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers hosted the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday in the biggest regular-season game in program history. Needing a convincing win over the Wolverines to remain firmly in the College Football Playoff hunt, the Badgers delivered, defeating Michigan 24–10 at Camp Randall Stadium.

Here are the unit grades.

Offense: B-

Coming into the game, Wisconsin expected tough sledding against the nation’s No. 3 total defense. For wide swaths of the game, boy howdy was it.

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook once again threw an interception in conference play, giving Michigan the ball deep in Wisconsin territory midway through the third quarter. The sophomore redeemed himself later in the quarter, however, finding receiver A.J. Taylor for the Badgers’ first score. The sophomore wideout finished with 79 yards and the touchdown.

Running back Jonathan Taylor was bottled up in the first half, but gashed the Wolverines in the second half for a couple of healthy runs, including a 52-yarder in the fourth quarter that flipped the field. He finished with 141 yards rushing.

Receiver Kendric Pryor, reprising his explosiveness from last week, scored on a 32-yard reverse to put Wisconsin up 21–10.

Defense: A

The defense once again lit up a talented opponent, holding the Wolverines to just 57 yards rushing. The Badgers linebackers were all over the field. T.J. Edwards snagged 10 tackles (including two for loss) and a sack. Ryan Connelly finished with eight tackles.

Michigan had a little success flaring tight ends and fullbacks into the right-side flat. Donovan Peoples-Jones was able to get loose over the top for a 48-yard catch, setting up Michigan’s first touchdown. But except for a couple of big gains, the Wolverines couldn’t get much going against the No. 1 total defense in the nation.

The defense stood tall in the red zone. With Michigan driving inside the 5-yard line midway through the second quarter, Derrick Tindal recovered a Brandon Peters fumble at the 2-yard line. After Hornibrook’s interception in Wisconsin territory, the Badgers held the Wolverines to just a field goal.

Special Teams: A

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone made his lone field-goal attempt and all PATs. Punter Anthony Lotti was a valuable weapon all game, punting eight times for an average of 37.3 yards and a long of 53 yards. Zach Hintze put three of four kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

Nick Nelson opened the scoring with a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first quarter. He finished with 68 yards.

Kick coverage kept the Wolverines at bay, limiting Peoples-Jones to seven yards on four punt returns.

Coaching: B+

Offensively, Wisconsin was very conservative in the first half before opening things up midway through the third frame. As has been the case much of the season, Wisconsin made strong second-half adjustments, opening things up just enough to put some points on the board.

Coordinator Jim Leonhard’s defense dared Michigan to throw on it in the first half. The Wolverines had some success doing so, but the defense shut the door in the second half, limiting Michigan to just a field goal.

Overall: A-

Coming into the game, Wisconsin was the better team on paper and it proved it on the field. The offense got a measure of redemption after last week’s turnover fest and the defense proved its mettle against quality skill players. It was a critical game for the Badgers’ playoff hopes and they answered the bell.

Student Section: D-

Inexcusable. The north end zone was less than half-full at kickoff for the biggest home game in program history. Bob Wiedenhoeft did his best to explain the issue this week. My opinion: it’s time to start taking away sections.