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Grading Wisconsin’s 24-21 loss to BYU

Badgers wilted under the heat inside Camp Randall.

BYU v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

MADISON—On a sweltering Saturday that tied for second-hottest game ever at Camp Randall Stadium, the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers saw its 41-game home non-conference winning streak melt away as the BYU Cougars staged an upset in a 24-21 contest.

It was one of the ugliest losses Wisconsin has experienced during its recent run of success, which has included a 20-game regular-season win streak that was snapped earlier, leaving players and fans alike looking for answers.

Here are the unit grades for team that is now 36-8 under Paul Chryst as head coach and suffered just its fourth home loss since he has taken over the program:

Offense: D

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was 18-of-28 for 190 yards. The junior badly underthrew tight end Jake Ferguson for an interception in Wisconsin territory early in the third period that led to a BYU touchdown. He also had an ugly intentional grounding penalty that could have resulted in a pick-six had the defender not dropped the throw.

Sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor came back to earth after setting a career-high in yardage last week against New Mexico, though the sophomore still managed 117 yards on 26 carries. Senior running back Taiwan Deal had two scores, a two-yard score in the first quarter to take an early lead and a five-yard burst early in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 21. Senior fullback Alec Ingold scored on a fullback dive from two yards out to tie the game before halftime.

Even though Wisconsin amassed 394 yards of offense, including 204 yards rushing, the Badgers’ vaunted offensive line failed to get the same push seen in the first two games and gave up two sacks, including on a critical third down with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Cougars linebackers Sione Takitaki (13 tackles and a sack) and Zayne Anderson (11 tackles and an interception) were all over the field and wreaked havok on Wisconsin’s offense.

Defense: F

Wisconsin’s defense struggled mightily in the first half, surrendering 134 yards rushing before halftime. The Cougars finished with 191 yards rushing and 120 yards through the air.

Cougars quarterback Tanner Magnum was elusive in the pocket, frequently side-stepping Wisconsin pressure. Magnum finished the game 12-of-22 for 89 yards, but seemed to make big throws when needed.

Missed tackles plagued the defense all day. Cougars running back Squally Canada scored two touchdowns and gashed the Badgers for 118 yards on nearly 11 yards per carry, including a 46-yard run that set up the game winning field goal. He also gained 44 yards on another run in the first half.

BYU made hay offensively with misdirection and after the game, senior linebacker Ryan Connelly spoke to the jet sweeps, saying, “They schemed us pretty well. They made some plays, took advantage of some things we were not necessarily in the best places for, so hats off to them.”

Special Teams: F

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone missed the game-tying 42-yard field goal with under a minute remaining. Gaglianone was seen apologizing to the team as the Badgers left the field. Punter Anthony Lotti averaged 43 yards on four punts, including a career-high 63-yard punt in the first quarter.

True freshman Aron Cruickshank handled kickoff returns again for the Badgers, finishing with a 21-yard average on four returns. Badger punt returners were uneven and indecisive, an issue Chryst acknowledged after the game.

Coaching: F

Wisconsin was handily out-schemed and out-executed. The Badgers made a number of uncharacteristic mental errors including missed tackles, turnovers, and inopportune penalties. Key injuries to tight end Zander Neuville and linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel did not help.

Wisconsin Twittervere was abuzz during a strange series in the third quarter that saw right tackle David Edwards, guard Beau Benzschawel, center Tyler Biadasz and left tackle Jon Dietzen all on the sideline. Wisconsin’s drive during that drive fizzled when tight end Kyle Penniston was called for a false start on fourth and one and the Badgers failed to convert the subsequent 4th-and-6 from the BYU 37. After the game, Chryst indicated that while the rotations were planned coming into the game, the decision was made to see if it would light a spark in the offense.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s defense looked the worst it has in years to teams not named Ohio State or Alabama.

Overall: F

A catastrophe across the board. For the third straight game, the Badgers looked sluggish from the start, but unlike against Western Kentucky and New Mexico the Badgers never got their footing against a physical and well-coached BYU. With all units struggling, one wonders if Wisconsin got caught looking ahead to next week’s road game under the lights at Iowa.

With Van Ginkel in a walking boot and Neuville’s status in question for next week, Wisconsin will need the next men to step up in a way that it didn’t against BYU if the Badgers are to salvage hope of a Big Ten title.