Well, that wasn’t fun.
The Wisconsin Badgers were outplayed in seemingly every facet of the football game on Saturday night as they fell to the Michigan Wolverines 38–13. The loss handed Alex Hornibrook only his second road loss as a starter, with both losses coming in Ann Arbor.
Wisconsin and Michigan were both scoreless after the first quarter, but Wisconsin’s defense was on a timer. It battled admirably, but without help from the offense, could only bend so long before breaking. The Wolverines and Badgers traded scores in quick succession to start the game, but that was the last true threat Wisconsin would pose on the evening, as Michigan began to lean on the Badgers near the end of the first half, eventually heading into halftime up 13–7.
In the second half, Wisconsin continued its futility throwing the football, with Hornibrook limited to 25 passing yards through the third quarter. Michigan continued to put its collective feet on the throat of Wisconsin, applying pressure that forced a Hornibrook interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, putting the final nail in the coffin of Wisconsin’s comeback hopes.
Here’s what we learned from the game.
1. There is a ton of young talent in the secondary.
We’ll start with the positive from this solemn night. The secondary has been the target of a lot of criticism from Badger fans lately, but the attrition at the position has allowed the depth at the position to expose itself. Rachad Wildgoose, Caesar Williams, Faion Hicks, Madison Cone, Deron Harrell, Reggie Pearson, Scott Nelson, and Eric Burrell have all shown to be young, exciting players, along with Donte Burton.
Wisconsin is going to go through some growing pains this season, regardless of what fans want. However, the future is bright throughout the secondary. Wisconsin’s ineptitude on Saturday night negatively effected the defense more than Michigan’s offense.
2. Wisconsin is sorely lacking talent in the front seven.
Injuries play a bit of a part in this, as Isaiahh Loudermilk was injured and Garrett Rand’s absence rings stronger seemingly every week. Fans can complain about the lack of depth and talent all they want, but it’s the reality at the position for Wisconsin at the moment.
Matt Henningsen looks like a former walk-on and Kayden Lyles looks like he converted to defense two months ago. Have these two played admirably? Yes, they have. However, they shouldn’t be starting for a top-15 team in the country, and the fact that they can’t be usurped by those behind them is more of an indictment of the recruiting Wisconsin has done at the defensive end position than it is an endorsement of Henningsen and Lyles.
3. Wisconsin’s offensive line isn’t as good as the media will tell you.
And I don’t mean this in the run-blocking department, where I thought Wisconsin did enough to win the game as a rushing attack. Taylor went over 100 yards, and they consistently were able to get small chunks in the run game.
This isn’t necessarily the players’ fault, but Wisconsin’s offensive linemen simply aren’t good enough pass blockers to be asked to hold up against future NFL talent consistently when they’re pinning their ears back and attacking. We saw it against Ohio State last year, and you saw it last night.
Is it more fun for fans to make fun of Hornibrook and his struggles throwing the ball? Sure. But it all starts up front. Hornibrook’s pick-six? Max protection that sprung loose a defensive tackle running in the face of Hornibrook, and hit him as he threw.
Wisconsin will improve, but the Badgers got their asses kicked on Saturday in Ann Arbor.