Halftime Analysis - Minnesota 17, Wisconsin 7

Halftime Analysis - Minnesota 17, Wisconsin 7

Football

Halftime Analysis - Minnesota 17, Wisconsin 7

MADISON, Wis. – With Paul Bunyan’s Axe on the line, the University of Wisconsin is getting chopped down to size.

Looking to break a 14 game losing streak to its border rival and become bowl eligible, Minnesota outplayed Wisconsin in all three phases through the first 30 minutes and took a 17-7 lead into the locker room.

Wisconsin (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) outgained 203-147 and converted 4 of 8 third downs compared to Minnesota going 0 of 5, but struggled with tempo on offense, sagged in the passing game and left points on the board with their special teams. Making his first start since Nov.3, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook looked rusty in the opening half, going 13-for-18 for 119 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Minnesota’s passing attack was plain to see early on, hit Wisconsin with quick throws to neutralize its pass rush on inside slants, targeting open receivers before the UW defensive backs could close the passing lane. The result was 70 first-quarter passing yards for the Gophers (5-6, 2-6), setting up a 34-yard field goal by Emmit Carpenter to open the scoring late in the first quarter.

A pivotal moment in the first half was Minnesota linebacker Blake Cashman getting ejected for a targeting hit on punt returner Jack Dunn with 11:48 remaining in the second quarter. A team captain, Cashman was Minnesota’s leading tackler (104) and his penalty gave UW a first down on the Gophers’ 39-yard line.

UW couldn’t take advantage when Hornibrook forced a throw into triple coverage that was easily intercepted and returned to the Minnesota 42. With quarterback Tanner Morgan hitting Tyler Johnson for 28 yards on the first play of the series, Minnesota slowly chewed off the clock until Mohamed Ibrahim waltz into the end zone from 10 yards out on fourth-and-1, the second fourth-and-short Minnesota converted on the series.

Hornibrook’s interception was one of the multiple situations where Wisconsin gifted things to the Gophers. Rafael Gaglianone missed a 31-yard field goal on the opening drive, his fourth miss from 42 yards or less this season. Following Minnesota’s first touchdown, a wide-open A.J. Taylor failed to secure a pass on third-and-8 that would have moved the chains. On the next play, Demetrius Douglas broke a couple lazy arm tackles and returned the punt 69 yards for the score.

The half would have likely been a huge bust if it wasn’t for tailback Garrett Groshek. Getting the handoff to set up a field goal attempt between the hashes, Groshek ended up rushing for 15 yards up the middle. Suddenly getting a first down at the Minnesota 7, UW used its last timeout to set up Jake Ferguson’s 7-yard touchdown catch with one second remaining.

Wisconsin will look to regroup in the second half after receiving the opening kickoff.

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