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Grading Wisconsin’s shootout victory over Purdue

Turnovers, big plays, and a strong rushing attack factor into the Badgers’ grade

Badgers WR Quintez Cephus hauls in a touchdown against Purdue
Matt Fleming; @B5Qphotos

Rubric - Wisconsin Football Unit Grades

Grade Description - accounting for degree of difficulty
Grade Description - accounting for degree of difficulty
A Excellent: Top-5 level performance
B Very good: Top-tier Big Ten performance
C Acceptable: Average for the Big Ten
D Unacceptable: Below average for the Big Ten
F Failure: Rutgers level performance
N/A Insufficient evidence for a grade

There is a lot to talk about in this penultimate regular season contest. Let’s jump right into it. I also figured out some bonus grades this week! Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen!

Offense: B+

QB: B-
O-line: B


Let’s just start with the bad news. Wisconsin fumbled the ball five times and lost three of them. Jack Coan managed to turn a wide-open Quintez Cephus into an under-thrown interception.

Apart from the glitches, things went pretty smoothly for the Badgers. They ran for 403 yards, and Coan completed 78.9% of his passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

Speaking of passing touchdowns, Wisconsin’s wide receivers can flat out play. I don’t feel like I have enough expertise to say they are under-utilized; however, it sure looks like they have been under-utilized. Just take a look at this touchdown grab by Cephus.

The pass-catchers also contributed significantly in the running game, as they combined for 113 yards on the ground in addition to the 203 receiving yards.

Of course, we cannot discuss rushing yards without the legend himself, Jonathan Taylor. He ran for 222 yards in what everyone expects to be his last game at Camp Randall. Apparently the coaching staff also believes this is likely the case, as they gave Taylor a curtain call at the end of the game.

Defense: C

Pass rush: C+
Pass coverage: D
Run defense: B+


Somebody tackle! Hit somebody! Anybody! Everybody!

This defense continues to backslide from its pre-Illinois heights. The unit continues to tackle inconsistently and is susceptible to big plays.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Badgers went from bend-but-don’t-break against Nebraska to bend-and-sometimes-break against Purdue. Something has to change to pull off (what will probably be considered) an upset against Minnesota next weekend.

Special Teams: A+

Kicking: A+
Punting: N/A
Returning: N/A
Coverage: N/A


Who would have thought one of my favorite moments of the season would be a special teams play against Purdue?

Oh, but it was, and Zach Hintze delivered a program record 62-yard field goal to close the first half.

Granted, this was really the only noteworthy special teams play of the game. Wisconsin never punted partly due to turnovers and partly due to averaging 8.2 yards per play.

That said, the longest field goal in the B1G since 1986 gives the whole unit an A+ grade.

Coaching: C+

Strategy: C
Adjustments: B
Play-calling: B-


I give the coaching staff some credit for calling a short pass play to Cephus at the end of the first half to set up the 62-yard field goal. I also applaud the creativity and success of two different wildcat personnel. Of course, I was not pleased with a fumble on a botched wildcat read option.

Purdue hit several home runs, and a few were on trick plays. Purdue is known for pulling those types of shenanigans, so I do not fully forgive the team for being caught offguard.

The Badgers did play stronger in the second half, riding the momentum Hintze provided at the end of the second quarter.

Overall grade: B-

Unit Grades: B
Big plays: C
Game Control: C
Penalties & Discipline: C-


This is a low B-. The offense and Hintze provided big plays, but the defense gave up several as well. Without four turnovers, this could have been a rather dull blowout. Again, Wisconsin was clearly the better team but allowed the opponent to hang around a little too long. Good thing this one was played at home.

Bonus grades

Dumb Dunn Puns: D-

When Jack Dunn caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter to give Wisconsin a 21-17 lead, you get bet the worst dad jokes found their way to twitter.

Yikes. How embarrassing.

#AxeWeek is upon us: B+

Why only a B+? Because I am horrified that Minnesota will throw for 400 yards against Wisconsin right on its way to the Rose Bowl.

However, I do love that the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe will be featured on College GameDay with so much at stake and both teams in the top-15. It is going to be a fun week, and I look forward to watching the game in the comfort of a climate-controlled home.

Speaking of Minnesota, will there every be a week that I don’t roll my eyes at P.J. Fleck?

Conga line Jump Around: C-

A bunch of Wisconsin players did a conga line during Jump Around, and I don’t know how I feel about it. Does anyone have video of this?

(Author’s note: apologies to those viewing this on mobile. You may have more luck reading the table directly from the source.)

2019 Wisconsin Football Grade Book

Category Mich NW MSU @ Ill. @ OSU Iowa @ Neb Purdue @ Minn B1G Championship Rose Bowl
Category Mich NW MSU @ Ill. @ OSU Iowa @ Neb Purdue @ Minn B1G Championship Rose Bowl
Overall A- C+ A+ D- B- B- C B- A- B- C-
Unit Grade Composite A C+ A D B- B- C+ B B+ B- C+
Big Plays A- B A D C+ B- C B A C D
Game Control B D A+ F N/A C D- C A D D
Penalties & Discipline C- C+ A F C+ D C+ C- A B+ N/A
Offense A D A D+ C+ B B+ B+ A- B- C+
QB B D A D N/A C C- B- A B- C
OL A+ D+ A D- C+ B- A- B B+ B- C+
RB / FB A+ B B+ C N/A A A A B B+ B-
WR / TE B D A B N/A B+ B+ A A B C
Defense A A- A+ D- B C+ D+ C B B- B+
Pass rush A- A+ A+ D+ B C+ C+ C+ B+ B B+
Pass coverage B+ B+ A+ F B C- D+ D B- C+ A-
Run defense A+ B+ A+ F B B F B+ A+ B- B+
Special Teams C+ D B- C+ B C- B+ A+ B+ F A- & F
Kicking C- B+ B C B C- B A+ B D+ D+
Punting B C C B- B C- B- N/A C- F F
Returning C+ F B C+ B C- A N/A A D A+
Coverage C- B C C+ B N/A B N/A B+ D N/A
Coaching A C A F N/A B- C- C+ A B- N/A
Strategy A+ C A D N/A B- D+ C B+ B N/A
Adjustments B C N/A F N/A B C B A F N/A
Play Calling A C A F N/A B- C B- A+ B N/A