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Grading Wisconsin outlasting Minnesota for Paul Bunyan’s Axe

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The Badgers beat the Gophers 20-17 in overtime for the 16th time in the last 17 meetings.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

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

Offense: B-

QB: D
O-line: B+
RB/FB: B
WR/TE: C+

Rationale:

The Badgers, per usual this season, did not have an explosive offensive performance against Minnesota on Saturday. Missing starting WRs Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis III, starting RB Jalen Berger, starting LT Cole Van Lanen and starting C Kayde Lyles Wisconsin was definitely in a hole to start the game.

However, senior RB Garrett Groshek had a monster game, rushing for 154 yards (6.4 ypc) and a touchdown while also catching four passes for 13 yards. The Wisconsin offensive line regularly pushed the Minnesota defensive line yards downfield so Groshek didn’t even see a defender until he was a couple of yards past the line of scrimmage.

Senior WR Jack Dunn had another productive game while being thrust into a starting position. He caught seven passes for 76 yards and a score and he led the team, and game, in all of the categories. QB Graham Mertz had another tough game, going 12-of-20 for 132 yards and leaving in the fourth quarter with an injury. Chase Wolf came in and was able to finish off a drive for the Badgers but wasn’t really asked to do much for UW via passing the ball.

Defense: C+

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

Rationale:

Leo Chenal played like a man possessed, recording 11.5 tackles, five for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass broken up. He was a one-man wrecking crew and kept the Gophers in tough situations all day.

Master Eric Burrell picked off Tanner Morgan in the endzone, and then chopped down the goalposts with an imaginary axe like a fucking G, to stop the Gophers from scoring. While Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 151 yards, the Badgers were still tough against the run and kept him out of the endzone.

Special Teams: C+

Kicking: B
Punting: C
Returning: C
Coverage: B+

Rationale:

Collin Larsh kicked a game-winning field goal and, well, that’s really all that matters right?

Coaching: C-

Strategy: C+
Adjustments: C
Play-calling: D

Rationale:

Joe Rudolph made some baffling decisions, one of which led to Chase Wolf throwing an interception deep down the field when Groshek had been gashing the Gophers on the ground. The decision to attempt a 46-yard field goal in the first quarter, which Larsh missed badly, was also silly as the Badgers should have gone for it because, quite frankly, why the hell not?

Despite missing a number of players in the backfield, pounding the ball with Groshek was a good decision because the Minnesota run defense was, and is, cheeks.

Overall grade: C+

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

Rationale:

This wasn’t a pretty game. The Badgers won and kept the Axe, which is all that matters, but no style points were earned on Saturday. Wisconsin was missing a whole host of contributors and was still able to gut out a win.

It wasn’t impressive, but it will be, most likely, the only thing we remember about this season in five years when we look back at it. Suck it, Minnesota. Suck it forever.