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Game Recap: Wisconsin offense struggles again, Badgers fall to Iowa 28-7

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Wisconsin’s defense plays well, the offense stinks out loud. Time is a flat circle.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers (2-3 overall) football team hit the road to take on the No. 19 Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2 overall) this week looking to right the wrongs of their previous two contests. Unfortunately, it was much more of the same in a classic Big Ten contest with punts, turnovers and fullbacks galore.

The game started as any Wisconsin/Iowa contest would with Iowa driving down and stalling out to punt in their own territory. Shortly after that, the Badgers fumbled the football on a fake jet sweep to Chimere Dike in Hawkeye territory. Wisconsin’s defense held strong to force Iowa into a field goal.

The rest of the half was punts galore as the Badgers and Hawkeyes combined for 12 straight punts back and forth. After a punt from the Hawkeyes, Wisconsin took the football down to their own 37-yard line. Faced with a fourth and one in plus territory Wisconsin went with a wildcat pass/disaster play with Garrett Groshek which was unsuccessful. As a result, the Badgers turned the ball over on downs and Iowa was able to tack on another field goal to send the game to half 6-0.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The offense continued to struggle through the first half, but they appeared to show some life as they put together a nine-play 46-yard drive to open the third quarter. Unfortunately, it stalled out as Graham Mertz was unable to connect with Chimere Dike on third and two and Wisconsin settled for a field goal attempt. The 47-yard attempt from kicker Collin Larsh was straight as an arrow, but well short of the goal post and the Badgers remained scoreless.

Five plays and 71 yards later, the Hawkeyes scored their first touchdown of the contest set up by a 38-yard completion from Spencer Petras to Ihmir Smith-Marsette. A play later the same connection hooked up for a score, and the Hawkeyes pushed the score to 12-0. Iowa also converted the two-point conversion to put the game at what felt like an unreachable margin.

Hope appeared lost for the Badgers when they quickly went three and out and lined up to punt back to Iowa, but hope returned as the Hawkeyes muffed the ensuing punt setting the Badgers up with great field position. Three plays, 25 yards later after a strong pass from Graham Mertz to Jack Dunn, Nakia Watson pounded in a one-yard score to put the Badgers within 7.

After back to back punts from both teams, Iowa pushed the margin back to 14 as Spencer Petras hit Smith-Marsette for a 53-yard touchdown on a blown coverage by Wisconsin. Wisconsin was desperate for a score and strung together a 16 play, 56-yard drive but stalled out once again as Graham Mertz missed a fourth down conversion to Chimere Dike.

Hope once again looked lost, but the Hawkeyes special teams stumbled to give the Badgers new life. After a quick three and out for the Iowa offense, the Hawkeyes lined up to punt but fumbled the long snap. The ball fell to the ground and Iowa punter Tory Taylor attempted to kick it anyway. Well, you can’t do that, and the Badgers were gifted the ball on downs with a first and goal.

Despite the gift Wisconsin was unable to convert as Graham Mertz missed a throw on first down, scrambled for no gain on second down, and threw an interception on fourth and goal to dampen any possible shot for the Badgers.

Iowa put an exclamation point on things the following play as Tyler Goodson broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown to put the Hawkeyes up 28-7 and place the game on ice. Wisconsin waved the white flag as they punted on the following possession, and Iowa ran out the clock to claim the Heartland Trophy 28-7.

Unfortunately for Wisconsin, it was much of the same as the last two contests. Poor play calling, worse execution, and the lack of explosive plays once again hampered the offense. Wisconsin had little running game as Nakia Watson led the team in rushing with just 29 yards. Graham Mertz once again struggled, going 20-of-38 for just 168 yards. The Badger defense played well overall, but we’re on the field much too long and gave up big plays late because of it.

The Badgers now fall to 2-3 in this disastrous season. Wisconsin will play next weekend in the Championship Weekend for the Big Ten. As it stands right now the Badgers sit in fourth place in the Big Ten West, which would match them up with Penn State who is fourth place in the East. Many are hopeful the Big Ten will allow Wisconsin to play Minnesota instead, but who knows if Kevin Warren and Co. can make the right decision. I doubt it.