The Wisconsin Badgers were able to get back to .500 with a huge rivalry win over Minnesota to retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe on Saturday. The game was not always pretty but nonetheless, Wisconsin pulled out the win thanks to an overtime field goal by Collin Larsh.
The win improved Wisconsin’s record to 3-3 overall, all of which came in conference.
Lets look back at three of the primary takeaways from the game.
The Garrett Groshek game
For the Badgers, this seasons has gone very different than most players, staff and fans would have hoped for. With injuries and COVID-19 decimating the Wisconsin offense for large parts of the season, there have not been a lot of great individual performances the past four games.
On Saturday against Minnesota, senior Garrett Groshek might have put together the best collegiate performance of his career.
Normally limited to a niche role in the offense, Groshek was called upon to handle a larger share of the offense as starting running back Jalen Berger and former starter Nakia Watson both were unable to play. Groshek answered the call in a big way, reasserting a struggling Wisconsin rushing attack against the Gophers.
Groshek with his first 100-yard rushing game in his collegiate career, likely in his final collegiate game.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 19, 2020
A former walk-on, Groshek carried the ball 24 times for 154 yards and a touchdown. He also added 13 yards receiving on four catches, and was a big reason that the Badgers were able to pull out a narrow win over Minnesota.
After getting married this off-season and having potential hopes for the NFL, Groshek might have tallied his final carries at Camp Randall Stadium, and went out with a bang.
Garrett Groshek has been underappreciated for much of his career in Madison, but this game will be remembered as his.
This game was littered with puzzling decisions.
There were multiple reviews that resulted in questionable calls by the officiating crew which could have really shifted momentum for Wisconsin early in the game. Neither call ultimately would have changed the outcome, as the Badgers were able to gut out a win, but it was still noteworthy at the time.
The offensive play-calling was once again iffy at times as well.
In the opening drive, the decision to run the ball on third and seven in plus territory, and then proceed to kick a long field goal did not make a ton of sense. Usually when you choose to run the ball on third and long the plan is to go for it on fourth. The call was even more baffling when you consider that the length of the kick (46 yards), when kicker Collin Larsh was well short from nearly the exact same distance the game prior.
Late in the fourth quarter, the choice to heave a deep ball with the reserve quarterback when marching the ball down the field on the ground also resulted in some head scratches. From the opponent 40 yard line, likely needing only a field goal to win with the clock ticking away, that deep pass didn’t even have a chance and was an easy interception.
Garrett Groshek was running at will during that drive (19 yards on the previous two carries), and the Badgers are lucky that decision didn’t come back to bite them.
And Larsh is good from 30 yards out, Wisconsin wins in OT, keeping the Axe for another season.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) December 20, 2020
Let’s be honest, this year has been really hard on a lot of people. The daily grind that the players and staff had to go through the past handful of months in order to play each week can not be overlooked. The Badgers endured extreme highs and extreme lows, with a constantly spinning carousel of players in and out of the lineup, and the outside noise from an unsatisfied fan base who was also grasping for positive news.
On Saturday evening, it was nice to see the players flash pure joy and excitement after the win. This season has been really hard on the players for multiple reasons, and for some of the players this represented the final game they would play in Madison. For the team to come together, short handed, and win over Minnesota seemed to be the perfect way to cap off the regular season.
The players were able to let loose and enjoy the moment, in a year that has been far from stellar. Paul Chryst has said on multiple occasions that the players will decide if they want to participate in a bowl game, but regardless of their decision this team demonstrated tremendous grit all season long, and deserved that moment to let down their guard and celebrate.
If Garrett Groshek was the team MVP for the game, Leo Chenal was not far behind. The sophomore inside linebacker had a huge game on Saturday and was all over the field.
For the game Chenal led the team with 13 total tackles, five tackles for a loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble. The performance tied him with Jack Sanborn for the overall team lead in tackles for the season, and gave him the top spot on the team with three sacks as well.