Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Grades: Badgers falter against Spartans; Ball still running strong


Every week, Herald Sports will look back at the most recent Wisconsin football game and assign grades to each position group on a scale of zero to five. Here’s a look at Wisconsin’s performance in its heartbreaking 37-31 loss at Michigan State for the second year in a row.

Quarterbacks – 3.5 out of 5

Despite head coach Bret Bielema’s opinions after the game, for the first time all year quarterback Russell Wilson appeared shaken. Wilson finished the game with two interceptions and two sacks, and he completed 14 of 21 passing attempts with only two passing touchdowns. He rushed eight times for a net gain of 30 yards and one touchdown.


The Spartans’ defensive pressure started to wear on Wilson in the second quarter, and his poise started to break down; he started throwing some questionable passes, one of which was an interception. Overall, Wilson had an up-and-down game, showing flashes of brilliance Badger fans have become accustomed to but also seeming to suffer the consequences of a shorter quarterback playing in Wisconsin’s toughest Big Ten game to date.

Running Backs – 4 out of 5

The running backs, specifically Montee Ball, were a major key to the success UW did have Saturday night. Ball had 18 carries for a 115 yards and one touchdown and also caught two passes for 24 yards and one more touchdown. Ball sat out for the latter part of the second quarter due to an unspecified injury (he appeared to be on the receiving end of a nasty head-on-head collision but said after the game he passed every concussion test administered), but came back for the second half to play a key role in Wisconsin’s comeback. Ball also contributed as a blocker on several occasions, one of which led to Wilson’s rushing touchdown.

With Ball sidelined for part of the game, James White gained an opportunity to lead the offense out of the backfield. He had 11 carries for 42 yards (3.8 per carry) and one reception for 12 yards. It certainly was not one of his best performances this season.

Tight ends – 3 out of 5

Jacob Pedersen had a decent game, setting the pace of the first quarter by catching a touchdown pass with no coverage around him. Pedersen had one other reception in the game and finished with 23 yards.

Wide Receivers – 3.5 out of 5

The wide receivers had an “if” night. If Nick Toon had turned around sooner, maybe Wilson would not have thrown that first interception. If Jared Abbrederis had caught a perfectly placed deep ball in the third quarter, maybe the comeback would have started sooner.

Toon only had two catches for 58 yards, one of which was a 42-yard pass that set up a Badger touchdown. Abbrederis had six catches for 91 yards and also ran the ball four times for 33 yards.

Offensive Line – 4 out of 5

The offensive line made only a few mistakes. In the first quarter especially, the Badgers’ front proved it could control the Spartans’ notoriously tough defensive line. Wilson faced pressure a few times and was sacked twice. But the run game flourished with Ball in the backfield, and the O-line pushing upfield.

Defensive Line – 3.5 out of 5

The defensive line got to Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins often, sacking him four times throughout the game and making him throw under pressure on multiple occasions. It stifled the run game, limiting running backs Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker to only 87 and 15 yards, respectively.

Linebackers – 3.5 out of 5

Chris Borland and Mike Taylor continued to lead the defense with 13 and seven tackles apiece. Both finished with a quarterback hurry, and Taylor forced MSU’s only turnover. Borland had one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Secondary – 3.5 out of 5

The secondary played a clean game but missed several key tackles that led to big gains by Michigan State. Aaron Henry had seven tackles and a pass break-up that was essential to stopping a fourth-quarter Spartans’ drive.

Antonio Fenelus and Marcus Cromartie were picked on early and often, especially the latter. Both finished with a handful of tackles – six and four, respectively – and Cromartie recovered the fumble Taylor forced.

Specialists – 1.5 out of 5

The specialists had a rough night. Michigan State blocked not only a field goal, but also a punt from Wisconsin’s 36-yard line – due to a completely blown blocking assignment – which was recovered in the end zone for a Spartan touchdown. Punter Brad Nortman finished the night with only two punts for a total of 83 yards.

While Abbrederis came close to breaking loose for the end zone a few times on punt returns, the line put a fair amount of pressure on MSU punter Mike Sadler, forcing him to make a few bad punts.

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