After a hard fight, the Wisconsin football program suffered a 24-10 loss to the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Badgers were able to hang in it for some time, but some crucial mistakes and some key losses late in the game contributed to UW’s inevitable demise.
Here are my grades for Wisconsin’s offense, defense, and special teams.
Wisconsin Football Offense Grade: C+
First and foremost, Braedyn Locke is — certifiably — a gamer. The redshirt freshman was thrown into the fire, making his second career start against the No. 3 ranked team in the country, and he showed a lot of poise while doing it. Box score watchers will say that his performance wasn’t anything special, as Locke went 18-for-39 for 165 yards and a touchdown. Sure, those numbers don’t jump out, but that doesn’t account for the numerous drops, which I’ll get to later.
Overall, Locke looked excellent in some moments and did enough to give Wisconsin a fighting chance in this one. Have to feel really good about the future with No. 18 under center.
The biggest thing to watch going forward now is Braelon Allen. The junior tailback left the game early and returned with a boot on his left foot. Before that, Allen lost a fumble in the first quarter and let another one slip away, but was fortunately recovered by UW. It was a brutal game for the Fond Du Lac native that now casts a big question mark on the running back position. Wisconsin will now have Jackson Acker and Cade Yacamelli as RB1 and RB2.
Receivers are bringing this grade down. I touched on the drops earlier, but man, some of those were incredibly frustrating. Wisconsin just kept shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly, and miscues by the receivers was a big component in that. Still, it was great to see Will Pauling continue his hot streak, finishing as Wisconsin’s leading receiver with four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
There were some positives to take away from this one, but UW’s failure to execute in key moments and mistake-ridden play will drag this grade down to a C+.
Wisconsin Football Defense Grade: B
Credit to Mike Tressel and company; the defense showed up and kept Wisconsin in this one.
Yes, the Badgers were torched by Marvin Harrison Jr and allowed him to tally 123 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions, but what team hasn’t been burned by him? At some point, you just have to recognize that the best player in the country is going to make plays, and that’s just what he did.
The Badgers also let up 162 yards and a touchdown to TreVeyon Henderson, but he falls in the same camp as Harrison for me. Elite players make elite plays.
Wisconsin managed to register four sacks and three turnovers. UW’s defensive front did a solid job of causing some disruption in the backfield, and the pressure they brought forced Kyle McCord to make some mistakes. I won’t jump on the “McCord stinks” train, but I think Wisconsin put a blueprint out there on how to limit him.
Also, I need to put a quick shoutout to Ricardo Hallman in here. The redshirt sophomore grabbed his fifth interception of the season tonight, and he just keeps getting better by the game. Dare I say, league potential?
All in all, the defense wasn’t perfect — as expected — but I still came away from this performance with plenty of positives. It’s been promising to see Mike Tressel’s crew trending in the right direction.
Wisconsin Football Special Teams Grade: C
The special teams unit has been relatively consistent this season, but this one was a stinker for this crew.
Nathanial Vakos hit one of his two field goal attempts on the night as the Badgers opted for a field goal at the one-yard line just before halftime. The former freshman All-American is now 12-for-14 on the season.
Atticus Bertrams had a pretty poor showing with 29 and 34-yard punts on the day, both of which led to Buckeye touchdowns.
I might as well pre-write this in every report card, but Wisconsin had another kick sail out of bounds. By my count, that’s now six kicks in eight games that have gone out. Brutal.
The Wisconsin football program will now get set for an early matchup against the Indiana Hoosiers next Saturday.
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