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Wisconsin football: the Axe is back home roundtable

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The Badgers beat the Gophers and are heading to Indy as the B1G West champs. What did B5Q think about the game?

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

Since 1995, the Badgers have beaten the Gophers 22 out of 24 times and after losing Paul Bunyan’s Axe last year, Wisconsin roared back and took what was theres theirs on Saturday afternoon. UW dominated UM in the 129th matchup between the two schools who have played each other more often than any other two FBS schools.

It was an awesome Saturday of football and we at B5Q had thoughts about it. What did Bob, Ryan, Belz and Tyler think about the play-calling and Jack Coan’s performance?

What are your thoughts on the offensive play-calling for the Badgers against the Gophers?

Ryan: I thought it was awesome. They had a lot of balance and really dialed up the pressure in the third quarter.

Tyler: I think it was the best play calling of the season. They knew Jonathan Taylor was going to be keyed on, and in turn they used him as a decoy to get other guys involved. I was thoroughly impressed with the play calling, especially in the second half. Kudos to all.

Belz: Kudos to Joe Rudolph and Paul Chryst. Even the Minnesota players were complimenting Wisconsin after the game for the creativity on offense. Simply beautiful.

Bob: There are a few times each year when Paul Chryst and company cook up a beautiful meal of play calling. I’m quite thankful Saturday was one of those times.

How about the Wisconsin pass defense?

Ryan: I thought they did a good job considering they were starting a true freshman. It looked like it would be a really long day when Minnesota scored on its second offensive play of the game, but then Wisconsin settled in. Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman both had decent games, but they could have done a lot more had Wisconsin not played as well as they did. Not to mention, five sacks and nine pass break ups helps when playing a team that excels at throwing the ball.

Tyler: Pass defense was great and I think that started up front with the pass rush. Coming into this game sacks had been down, but the Badgers were able to get that corrected and it benefited them in a big way. Caesar Williams played his best game as a Badger yesterday as well. Jack Sanborn played great too. So many guys stepped up when it was needed.

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

Belz: I think the pass rush is the real story. Tanner Morgan seemed a bit flustered at times, and led him to miss some throws he has made all year long. Caesar Williams had a hell of a game, and Semar Melvin stepped up his play after the opening drive. Big defensive effort to slow down a very good passing attack.

Bob: I thought it was pretty good. Wisconsin held the Gophers 25% below their season per attempt passing average. The pass rush was quite good, too, which clearly helped.

And lastly...what about Jack Coan’s performance in the snow in the biggest game of the season?

Ryan: I thought he was awesome, especially in the third quarter. He threw a couple of dimes to Quintez Cephus on Wisconsin’s opening drive in the second half.

Tyler: Coan has been pretty good all season, and he really showed his strengths last night. He was incredibly efficient and made the correct throw each time. He went on the road in bad weather and continued to throw the ball in the right direction. I think his deep ball to Cephus was his best throw of 2019.

Belz: Coan was a big reason for the win. He missed his spots on a couple of early throws in the game, but was lights out after. That deep ball to Cephus on Wisconsin’s opening drive of the second half was right on the money. Coan showed a willingness to stretch the field, and it paid major dividends against the Gophers.

Bob: He completed nine of his last 11 passing attempts for 237 yards and two touchdowns. It really does not get too much better than that in the middle of a blizzard.

What do you think Minnesota did wrong against Wisconsin?

Ryan: Minnesota didn’t do a great job in pass protection, as Morgan was under pressure constantly.

Tyler: Pressure was key in this one. Minnesota was 85th in sacks allowed so you knew there was a mismatch there if the Badgers could get the pass rush back on track. They did, and it worked out for them on defense. On the other side, Minnesota sold out for JT and didn’t realize he was the decoy of the offense until late which helped the Badgers play very sound football on offense. Also, aside from the disaster fumble the Badgers took care of the football, something they didn’t do in 2018.

Belz: Win last year in Madison. Wisconsin was on a warpath ever since last year’s debacle. On a more serious note, Minnesota was beaten in the trenches of this one. Wisconsin didn’t yield a sack, while the defense got to Tanner Morgan five times. Jack Coan had all day to pass, and he excelled because of it.

Bob: Minnesota went wrong by being Minnesota. It’s not their fault. They should be proud of who they are. But who they are is an entire tier lower than Wisconsin. Maybe they should have built a dome?

Wasn’t it nice of the Badgers to lend the Axe to the Gophers for one year just to keep them interested?

Ryan: I don’t think so, but it did make for good theatre and a great retribution narrative.

Tyler: As P.J. Fleck said, it’s good for the rivalry, but I am fine with not giving it back for another 15.

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

Belz: No, but It definitely got Wisconsin’s attention. Maybe this will jumpstart 15 in a row, row, row for the Badgers.

Bob: No, but it did make this quite fun. Minnesota’s victory over Wisconsin last year jump-started the Gophers, but that seems to be done.

Game balls on offense and defense? As always, this doesn’t have to be a Badger.

Ryan: On offense, Coan and Cephus. On defense, Caesar Williams. He did a great job of holding Minnesota’s 1,000-yard receivers in-check and he had an interception, to go along with four pass break-ups.

Tyler: On offense it was Coan, on defense it was Caesar Williams no if ands or buts in my eyes.

Belz: Jack Coan on offense. 280 yards and two touchdowns in the snow with no turnovers is exceptional. For defense, Zack Baun. He led the team with nine tackles, and tallied two sacks.

Bob: On defense, Caesar Williams had a really nice game. A different officiating crew may have called him for two or four pass interference infractions, but they didn’t have a different crew now did they? On offense, I can’t give it to anyone other than Coan.

Looking ahead, what does Wisconsin have to do differently to even keep it close in their rematch against Ohio State in Indianapolis?

Ryan: Limit the long plays that is a staple of Ohio State’s offense and be creative in the play-calling. They also need to be perfect and stop Chase Young...

Tyler: Gotta play a perfect four quarters. They had two good ones last time, and it came off the rails the last two. If you block Chase Young I think you can move the football a little more, so it will come down to the Badgers getting sacks and making stops. I know I am in the vast minority but I think they have a shot. I will be making the trip to Indy so I cannot wait to get my hopes up and get my heart torn out!

Belz: Force multiple turnovers and get some crucial stops. The offense will need to put up 35+ points while sustaining long drawn-out drives to keep Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins off the field. Blocking Chase Young is always a good start.

Bob: Be perfect. Maybe start Graham Mertz because that will slow down Chase Young.