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Grading Wisconsin’s win over BYU

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The Badgers plastered the Cougars in Provo.

Wisconsin v BYU Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

It’s a straight-A kinda day.

Despite BYU’s early 2017 struggles, Wisconsin’s match-up against BYU had the feel of a big non-conference game. SB Nation’s Matt Brown challenged a large traveling Wisconsin contingent to drink Provo dry. ABC made it the national afternoon game. (Author’s note: I want Tommy Tuberville to do color commentary on everything, always. #fumagal-ah)

The Badgers proceeded to plaster the Cougars in Provo, defeating BYU 40–6. It was nice.

Here are the unit grades.

Offense: A+

The passing game looked the best it has in recent memory. For the first time in a long time, Wisconsin had a vertical passing game that relied on wide receivers as much as the tight ends. Six different players finished with 20 or more receiving yards and four different players caught touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook had his best game as a Badger, setting a new Wisconsin completion percentage record after going 18-of-19 for 256 yards and four touchdowns.

Freshman receiver Danny Davis III was the big-play threat, fighting off two BYU defenders to haul in a 50-yard pass over the top midway through the first half. Sophomore receiver Quintez Cephus continued his strong start to the season with 54 yards and two touchdowns.

The offensive line chewed up BYU’s front seven. The Badgers had 235 yards rushing, repeatedly gashing a previously stout Cougar defense.

Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, the reigning Big Ten Co-Offensive Player and Freshman of the Week, was fantastic, rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown. He certainly would have had more had the starters seen more time.

Defense: A

Junior inside linebacker T.J. Edwards set the tone on the first series, snaring an interception that led to three points. The Cougars got some early traction on the back of former Wisconsin commit Ula Tolutau, but once the defense found its groove, BYU found it rough sledding all day long, finishing with only 192 total yards.

Once BYU was forced into passing mode, Wisconsin had a field day late in the game. Redshirt freshman Dontye Carriere-Williams snagged an interception and the defense harassed Cougars quarterback Beau Hoge into a safety.

(Picking nits: Wisconsin’s challenges on the deep ball popped up again as the Badgers gave up a 50-yard pass late in the first half. This recurring theme makes me nervous.)

Special Teams: A

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone made his only field goal attempt and all of his PATs. Punter Anthony Lotti didn’t see the field in the first half, but flipped the field after the first series in the second half with a booming 51-yard punt. Kickoff specialist Zach Hintze, filling in again for in P.J. Rosowski, put four of his seven kickoffs into the endzone.

A.J. Taylor had two returns for 65 yards including a 42-yard return off of the BYU post-safety free kick. After a few quiet weeks, it was nice to see big-play ability from the return unit.

Coaching: A

The game plan was solid. The play calls were good. The Badgers hung 40 on a name opponent on the road in a tough place to play.

Overall: A+

This is probably as good as it gets.

The offensive line finally looks like a Wisconsin line. The defense looks stout. Vertical passing, an underrated element of Paul Chryst’s best offenses, is back.

This team has more athleticism at the skill positions than it has in the past few years. If Hornibrook can maintain this poise and consistency, and if the wide receiving corps is as talented as it seems, the Badgers are going to do some damage against teams that stack the box against a running game that is firing on all cylinders.