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Grading Wisconsin’s win at Minnesota

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Badgers throttle Gophers 31-0.

Wisconsin v Minnesota

For the fourteenth straight year, Paul Bunyan’s Axe belongs to Wisconsin.

The Badgers were firing on all cylinders Saturday, taking “rival” Minnesota to the woodshed for a 31-0 win over the Gophers. It was as complete a victory as Wisconsin (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) has had all year.

Here are the unit grades.

Offense: A-

Last seen threading needles against Michigan, quarterback Alex Hornibrook continued to build on his improved form. The sophomore completed 15 of 19 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns, hooking up with tight ends Troy Fumagalli and Kyle Penniston as well as wide receiver Danny Davis.

Running back Jonathan Taylor’s fumbling issues continued, putting the ball on the ground late in the second quarter, but the freshman still finished the game with 149 yards and a touchdown (#scheduledtweet).

After Bradrick Shaw went down with a leg injury in the first quarter, Wisconsin showed its depth at running back. Chris James, Garrett Groshek, and Austin Ramesh all piled up yards, with the latter even pulling off the exceedingly rare, 41-yard A-10 Thunderbolt fullback version of the jet sweep.

Defense: A

We are running out superlatives for the Badgers D.

Wisconsin dominated Minnesota all game long and the Gophers never seriously threatened offensively. Wisconsin’s defense held Minnesota to 46 yards and two first downs in the first half, including just three passing yards. The Gophers would finish with just eight first downs and 133 total yards. Minnesota completed just three passes all day long.

Linebacker Ryan Connelly had six tackles and two sacks on the day. T.J. Edwards finished with seven tackles and would have had more had Wisconsin not cycled in its second-team defense early in the fourth quarter.

This was technically Wisconsin’s first shutout of the year, but it was the defense’s second shutout in three games. When the Badgers take care of the ball, they are extraordinarily difficult to score on. Even when Taylor fumbled and gave Minnesota the ball at midfield, Wisconsin pushed the Gophers back with a Connelly sack, ultimately forcing a punt.

Special Teams: B

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone made his only field goal attempt and converted all PATs. Punters Anthony Lotti and Connor Allen had three punts between them. Zach Hintze just keeps getting touchbacks on kickoffs. Derek Tindal had one kick return for 24 yards and Nick Nelson had a punt return for 13 yards.

Coaching: A

In a high-stakes rivalry game with College Football Playoff implications, both sides of the ball looked as strong as they have all year. There was not even a whiff of a trap game as the Badgers looked poised and ready for stronger competition.

The offense is starting to mix in some interesting looks, giving credence to Owen Riese’s theory that Paul Chryst has been rope-a-doping the Big Ten this year. Jim Leonhard’s defense smothered the young Gophers’ offense.

Overall: A

The Axe stays in Madison. An undefeated Wisconsin heads to Indianapolis to take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, with a spot in the CFP on the line.

Feels glorious and a bit surreal.