Grades: Badgers stumble, especially with poor special teams play

first_imgDespite ultimately finishing with a 5.0-yards-per-carry, Montee Ball and Wisconsin’s rushing attack took a while to get going Saturday night. UW finished with only 89 yards.[/media-credit]Every week, Herald Sports will look back and evaluate the most recent game by the Wisconsin football team on a scale of zero to five.The Badgers suffered their second consecutive loss Saturday night, falling to Ohio State 33-29 at Ohio Stadium. The loss drops Wisconsin into a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten Leaders Division, with a conference record of 2-2 (6-2 overall).Quarterbacks – 4 out of 5Fifth-year senior Russell Wilson had a more polished game than he did against Michigan State, completing 20 of 32 passes for 253 and three touchdowns. His feet allowed him to avoid some sacks as well, and he was especially savvy in UW’s last two drives, throwing a perfect ball to Jared Abbrederis in the back of the end zone during the first and finding him wide open downfield on the second.Nevertheless, Wilson’s decision-making was suspect at times. He began the fourth quarter with a costly intentional grounding call that moved the Badgers to their own 6-yard line, and his second-to-last throw of the game was to a wide receiver that was not open and unable to score. However, a flag for pass interference gave him another chance.Backfield – 3 out of 5The Wisconsin backfield was held to under 100 yards rushing for the first time in nearly two years, but the blame doesn’t rest squarely on the backs, nor can one forget about the production in the air.Running back Montee Ball and fullback Bradie Ewing provided an essential safety net for Wilson to rely on throughout the game, combining for six catches, 67 yards and one touchdown.Tight ends – 3 out of 5Redshirt sophomore Jacob Pedersen started strong for UW, catching two passes for 11 yards and one first down in the first half. However, Pedersen became pretty quiet after that, catching only one more pass the rest of the game.Wide receivers – 3.5 out of 5Redshirt sophomore Abbrederis came up big for Wisconsin in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns and finishing the night with six catches for 113 yards. But Wilson didn’t have many other options at wideout as fifth-year senior Nick Toon had another quiet night with 39 yards on three catches.Offensive line – 2.5 out of 5Wisconsin’s front five were dominated by Ohio State’s front seven all game long and could not get anything going on the run, producing just 89 yards on the night. Take away a fourth-quarter 40-yard dash by Ball, and the running game averaged just 1.75 yards per carry.Pass protection was not much better, either, as Wilson was sacked three times and chased around all evening.Defensive line – 3 out of 5On an astounding 58 rushing plays, Ohio State rattled off 268 yards rushing – an average of 4.6 yards per carry. On several occasions, the Badger D-line was able to apply pressure on Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller but only contained him once when redshirt junior Brendan Kelly earned the unit’s lone sack in the first quarter.Miller ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns on the night.Linebackers – 4 out of 5With such a profusion of rushing attacks from Ohio State, the Wisconsin linebacking corps was forced to play a more aggressive game and answered the call with all the starters leading the team in tackles. Redshirt junior Mike Taylor gobbled up an incredible 22 stops on the night, while sophomore Chris Borland pitched in 13 more. Senior Kevin Claxton totaled 10 tackles and scored 2.5 tackles for loss, including one sack.Secondary – 2 out of 5Ohio State didn’t pass the ball much – just 12 times – but it was ultimately the secondary that came away with the most egregious – and costly – of errors. Miller’s 40-yard heave with 20 seconds left landed in the hands of Devin Smith in the middle of the endzone with no defensive back in position to make a play, losing the game for the Badgers.Specialists – 1 out of 5In more ways than one, the special teams unit can claim a good amount of responsibility for Saturday’s loss, as well. The most memorable instance is, of course, the blocked punt in the third quarter, which led to the Buckeyes taking a 17-7 lead.Later in the fourth quarter, Abbrederis opted to field a punt inside his own 5-yard line rather than let it bounce for a touchback. UW eventually punted from its own 6-yard line on that drive, allowing OSU to get a field goal out of its gifted field position.Then, after Wisconsin took the lead with 1:18 remaining, UW’s kickoff team allowed a 42-yard kick return to the OSU 48, setting up the game-winning score.The unit’s only redeeming quality was a fourth-quarter fumble recovery by linebacker Andrew Lukasko on a punt, which eventually led to a Badger touchdown.last_img read more