With Iowa Up Next, Wisconsin Folds In First Test of Physicality

With Iowa Up Next, Wisconsin Folds In First Test of Physicality

Football

With Iowa Up Next, Wisconsin Folds In First Test of Physicality

MADISON, Wis. – As his teammates hung their dejected heads on the long walk back to the home locker room, the reality of a shocking home defeat just starting to creep in, University of Wisconsin senior kicker Rafael Gaglianone made it a point to try and apologize to as many them as he could.

After he hooked a 42-yard field goal in the final minute, the last nail in the coffin was delivered on a brutal 24-21 loss to unranked BYU at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday, a game in which the Badgers were a three-touchdown favorite.

“(Making those big kicks is) what I work for and what we get judged on,” Gaglianone said. “I had my opportunity. They put me in a good position. I felt like I needed to make that kick for the team.”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this for Wisconsin – once ranked No.4 in the country but in a steady decline ever since. All the talk of the College Football Playoffs is gone for the immediate – and likely long-term – future. The big concern now for the Badgers (2-1) is to regroup in time for conference play, starting next week when the Badgers waltz into a prime-time affair at Iowa.

In reality, the result of Saturday makes next week’s challenge look even more daunting.

BYU (2-1) utilized a pro-style offense and a 4-3 defense, the former being a group that wanted to establish the run behind its big beefy offensive line or fire passes to its two sure-handed tight ends. The latter was a unit that brought physicality and passion in stopping the run and playing with a chip on their shoulder because of past Badgers’ transgressions. If one didn’t know any better, BYU is Iowa Lite.

Wisconsin outside linebacker Zack Baun said the Hawkeyes are more physical than the Cougars, so playing this game as a Big Ten introduction appeared to be worth its weight in gold.

“I think going into Big Ten, BYU is a good transition for us,” Baun stated.

The problem was Wisconsin played like a giant lead balloon, outhustled, outmuscled and outplayed for long stretches. The Cougars’ offense gashed them with some smoke and mirrors – like a 31-yard wide receiver pass play that went for a touchdown – and took advantage of players being out of position for big chunk plays with pure power football.

“They outexecuted us,” inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “Game-plan wise we were right there, we knew what was coming, but we didn’t get enough blocks, we were in the wrong gaps, and missed tackles. I take a lot of that stuff on myself and the unit. We have to be better if we want our team to win.”

BYU had six plays that went for at least 18 yards, including runs of 44 and 46 yards by tailback Squally Canada, who averaged 10.7 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns. After giving up only 81 rushing yards to BYU last year, the Cougars gashed UW for 191 on the ground.

“There’s no doubt that they had big plays offensively,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said. “Two long runs set up two of their scores. Another score was set up on a short field on a third-down pick that we had … For us to be our best, you need to be a little bit more efficient on those, and it gives you more opportunities.”

Offensively the Badgers manhandled BYU in Provo, Utah, last year, so a unit comprised mostly of the same people should have had no huge issues. But the Cougars, who held a couple Pac-12 schools under 24 points in consecutive weeks, bottled up the box to slow down Wisconsin’s potent running game and make quarterback Alex Hornibrook throw the football.

The result was Jonathan Taylor squeaking out 117 yards and no touchdowns on 26 attempts and Hornibrook struggling to find anything close to a rhythm. A year after going 18 of 19 for 256 yards and four touchdowns against the Cougars, Hornibrook was 18 of 28 for 190 yards and no scores with too many missed throws to open targets.

Worse than all that, Hornibrook’s telegraphed interception on third-and-3 that was returned to the Wisconsin 27 was the backbreaker. A two-yard run by Canada capped the drive on the short field and gave the Cougars a 21-14 lead with 9:48 left in the third quarter. They never played from behind again.

“You’ve got to execute on things,” Hornibrook said, “and we didn’t execute on enough things.”

UW’s quarterback wasn’t alone in the offense’s problems. The offensive line – thought to be one of the best in the country – struggled to maintain protection and clear lanes in the September heat, forcing the staff to sub in the backups for a series in the third quarter. Unforced penalties were also an issue, none bigger than tight end Kyle Penniston’s false start penalty on fourth-and-one at BYU’s 32-yard line that stalled another scoring opportunity.

Left guard Michael Deiter said in the days leading up to Saturday that he felt the Badgers were close to really putting together a complete performance. In reality, what Wisconsin put forth against BYU instilled anything but on the road that is yet to come.

“They’re (BYU) good,” Deiter said. “If you’re not on 100 percent, they’re going to make you look really bad. That’s what they did.”

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