Wisconsin's Offense Flops In Blowout Loss To No.12 Michigan

Wisconsin's Offense Flops In Blowout Loss To No.12 Michigan

Football

Wisconsin's Offense Flops In Blowout Loss To No.12 Michigan

Wisconsin’s College Football Playoff chances are officially dead.

That’s not the shocking aspect following the Badgers’ 38-13 defeat to No.12 Michigan at Michigan Stadium Saturday night. What’s surprising is that the loss can’t be pinned on a patchwork defense that lost more and more players as the night went on. No, this defeat is solely on the shoulders of a Wisconsin offense that many thought before the season could be one of the best in program history.

Boy, were we wrong.

The Badgers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) were supposed to set all sorts of scoring records this season with an offense that returned a veteran quarterback, experienced receivers, a top-10 Heisman Trophy running back and one of the best offensive lines in the nation.

With a few exceptions, namely the final three quarters against Nebraska, Wisconsin’s offense has underwhelmed and lacked punch, with this loss – the biggest in the four-year Paul Chryst era – being one of the most uninspiring.

Against the Wolverines (6-1, 4-0), the Badgers’ offensive line missed assignments, the receivers dropped passes and quarterback Alex Hornibrook was porous. With five minutes remaining in the final quarter, Wisconsin had only 25 passing yards and hadn’t completed a pass since there was 1:58 left in the first quarter.

When a pass was mercifully completed with 4:50 remaining, it ended a string of 12 straight incompletions that made the offense looked dazed and confused.

Tailback Jonathan Taylor delivered his part, rushing for 101 yards on 17 carries, but the sophomore tailback can’t carry the ball on every play. Then again, maybe he should.

Take one second-quarter sequence for example. After a 9-yard Taylor carry put UW in a second-and-1 at its own 47, Wisconsin next plays went like this: two-yard loss after Hornibrook fumbled the snap, a sack by an unblocked rusher, punt, interception, Taylor for three yards, incomplete pass, false start, incomplete pass and punt.

The patchwork UW defense could only handle so much. Already without starters Isaiahh Loudermilk and D’Cota Dixon, Wisconsin lost cornerback Faion Hicks in the opening quarter and again had to go with a youth movement. Even with those problems, Wisconsin limited Michigan to 203 yards of offense in the first half (81 yards coming on one zone-read run) and four field goal attempts to keep the game close at 13-7 entering halftime.

The Badgers’ defense was equally as good in the third quarter, holding the Wolverines to no plays over 20 yards and allowing only one touchdown after a roughing the snapper penalty extended a drive. It didn’t matter in the end because the offense showed no willingness to help.

The dagger appeared to be placed when Michigan went up three scores – 24-7 – with 11:36 remaining, but Hornibrook plunged the knife in farther when his off-balanced throw toward the tight end had was easily picked off by Lavert Hill, resulting in a 21-yard interception return.

It was all downhill for both units from that point forward, especially after the secondary suffered more injuries with safeties Scott Nelson (who didn’t play in the first half because of a targeting suspension) and Reggie Pearson getting knocked out of the game at various points in the second half.

In his second career start, a 14-7 loss at Michigan in 2016, Hornibrook went 9-for-25, 88 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Now in what was his 29th collegiate start, he went 7-for-20 for 100 yards (75 on his final drive), a touchdown on his final throw and two interceptions.

The quarterback on the other side had no such problems. In addition to his 81-yard run off a zone read that set up Michigan’s first touchdown, Shea Patterson went 14-for-21 for 124 yards but did most of the damage with his legs. His 81-yard run in the second quarter set up Michigan’s first points and his 7-yard touchdown scramble capped off a 75-yard drive that started the third quarter.

They were moments that gave Michigan its first win over a top 15 opponent in over two years, while at the same time turning a Wisconsin season that started with such high promise into a mediocre dud.

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