It was a no good, very bad day for Wisconsin in Ann Arbor.
The No. 15 Badgers (4–2, 2–1 Big Ten) came into their showdown with No. 12 Michigan (6–1, 4–0) looking to grab a quality road win against a team that had struggled against ranked opponents over the past few years.
Instead, Wisconsin sleepwalked its way through an embarrassing loss on national television, getting thrashed by the Wolverines 38–13.
Here are the unit grades. They go pretty much as you would expect.
Wisconsin’s offense was not good. Not good at all.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was dreadful, going 7-of-20 for 100 yards and a touchdown while throwing two interceptions, including a back-breaking pick-six in the fourth quarter.
Hornibrook spent most of the game with just 25 passing yards until adding 75 and a touchdown late in garbage time. He was inaccurate much of the game and his receivers did him no favors with a handful of drops.
Running back Jonathan Taylor ran the ball well, but generally unproductively, finishing with 101 yards rushing on 17 attempts. Wide receiver Kendric Pryor opened the scoring for Wisconsin with a 33-yard touchdown run.
It was a war of attrition for coordinator Jim Leonhard’s defense. The Badgers were without starting safeties Scott Nelson (suspended for the first half, injured in the second) and D’Cota Dixon, defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk and lost defensive backs Faion Hicks and Reggie Pearson during the game.
The defense was put under pressure by the other units in the first half, including a quick change on Hornibrook’s first interception, but held fast, limiting the Wolverines to 13 points before the break.
Without relief from the offense, however, the dam finally burst in the after the intermission. The depleted defense wore down against Michigan’s run game to the tune of 237 yards rushing in the second half.
The Badgers had three sacks but did not get any turnovers.
Special Teams: D-
Kicker Rafael Gaglianone made an extra point.
Punter Anthony Lotti had a long, low kick with two minutes left in the first half that allowed Wolverines receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones to break a return into plus territory. Lotti had seven punts averaging 40.1 yards.
The punt team gave the ball back to Michigan in the early third quarter on a specious roughing the snapper penalty. The Neymar-esque dive unfortunately proved to be a turning point in the game as the Wolverines went up two scores on that continued drive.
Head coach Paul Chryst appeared very conservative on offense. Very conservative. In the seemingly-forgot-that-forward-passes-were-permitted sense of the word. He drew the ire of the Wisconsin faithful throughout, including when he opted to punt from Michigan territory on 4th-and-2 in the third quarter.
Jim Leonhard’s defense held the line as long as they could. With support from the offense, it might have been enough.
(Narrator: It was not.)
This was no fun at all. A home game next week against Illinois should help get back on track, but this team’s ceiling has been severely limited.
Best case scenario involves running the table which seems unlikely with road games against Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue looming. A not-so-great Big Ten West helps, but this is the second deflating loss of the season and may not be the last.