10 quick thoughts on Wisconsin’s 38-17 win over Minnesota.
Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 17
10. Fortunately, the awful weather didn’t seem to play too much of a factor. The elements were cute and all, but it would’ve been interesting to have seen what the Gopher passing game could’ve done on a dry track. Minnesota isn’t built for a game like this. Wisconsin is Wisconsin – it was able to pound it more.
9. It looked like it was going to be a Minnesota showcase. The big play to Rashod Bateman for a 7-0 first quarter lead appeared to be just the beginning, but Wisconsin played one of its overall best games of the second half of the season. The offense took over, the Gopher defense stalled, and …
8. What’s weird is that Wisconsin won, and it didn’t really play its game. The ground attack was just okay, it committed five more penalties, it lost the time of possession battle and wasn’t good on third downs, and the +1 in turnover margin wasn’t a massive help. But the defensive front lived behind the line at times, and the offense looked and played like it was having fun.
7. Minnesota is the team with the ultra-efficient passing game, but it was Wisconsin who handed the weather a bit better. Tanner Morgan threw for almost 300 yards for the Gophers, but he he averaged just eight yards per pass. Jack Coan didn’t throw any picks – Morgan gave away one – and threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns averaging close to 13 yards per pass.
6. The Badger defensive front had one of its best games of the year. It was terrific against the run, lived in the backfield, and made a whole lot of plays. The entire defense had a few breakdowns, but Zack Baun made two sacks and a game-high nine tackles, Eric Burrell was a playmaker in the secondary, and Caesar Williams survived against the Gopher NFL receivers.
5. The Gophers did their star receivers going – a little bit. Rashod Bateman caught six passes for 147 yards and a score, and Tyler Johnson caught eight passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. However, the running game went nowhere – the offensive front couldn’t generate enough of a push. There were two nice runs, and that was it on the 76-yard day.
4. What did you do with Paul Chryst? All of a sudden, in bad weather, Wisconsin is running reverses on kickoffs, more misdirection plays than normal, a few funky sweeps beyond the jet sweep that’s part of the repertoire, and there was the deep ball. Wisconsin beat Minnesota at its own game with Quintez Cephus catching five passes for 114 yards and a score,
3. Jonathan Taylor was bottled up, only busted out one good run, and … he ran for two touchdowns and caught an interesting 28-yard scoring pass where he boxed out his man and backed into the end zone. He ran for 76 yards, caught 39 yards worth of passes, and he helped everything else on the offense work – he allowed the coaching staff to get creative.
2. This loss doesn’t diminish anything. PJ Fleck showed what life could be around the Minnesota program when it starts to win. Did it have to play Ohio State this year? No. Did it have to play Michigan? No. Did it play anyone remotely decent in the non-conference schedule? No. But the Gophers got to the Paul Bunyan Axe game with a shot at going to the Big Ten Championship with a chance to go to the College Football Playoff. This year has been an amazing success.
1. Can the Badgers actually hang around with Ohio State, or possibly win the Big Ten championship? Nah – this Buckeye team is a whole other brand of special – but as long as the they don’t get totally annihilated, they deserve to be in the Rose Bowl.
The loss to Illinois is a stinger, and – most likely – two blowout losses to Ohio State won’t help, but Wisconsin blew out Minnesota at Minnesota, and blew out Michigan. Penn State? Its claim to fame is that it loss to Minnesota was a big deal. It struggled to put away the Wolverines.
At worst, the Badgers are in a lovely Florida bowl game. At best … maybe they actually beat the Buckeyes and go to Pasadena as the one true Big Ten champ? Either way, this win over Minnesota was special.