In a Border Battle clincher, the University of Wisconsin Badgers beat the University of Minnesota Gophers, 31-28.
Every week Herald Sports will take a look back at the Wisconsin football game and grade the position groups on a scale of zero to five.
Here is how they fared in week five’s Border Battle at Minnesota:
Quarterbacks — 3 of 5
After his career day versus Michigan State, no one could have expected Scott Tolzien to duplicate it Saturday at Minnesota. He performed adequately, however, completing 16-of-26 passes for 159 yards. Tolzien also had a touchdown pass and an interception.
The junior was integral late in the game, though, with a big 47-yard run down the sideline in the fourth quarter to set up John Clay’s third touchdown of the game.
Running backs — 4.5 of 5
For the second straight week, John Clay had a career day to lead the Wisconsin football team to victory over Minnesota. Clay rushed 32 times — his second straight game over 30 carries — for 184 yards and three touchdowns.
He earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance, and the sophomore from Racine now leads the Big Ten in rushing with 116.4 yards per game.
The only blemish for the running backs, and the only thing keeping it from being a perfect five of five, was Zach Brown’s crucial fumble for the third week in a row.
Wide receivers — 3 of 5
It is tough to shine when the ball does not come your way often, and that is what happened to the Wisconsin receiving corps Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. Starters Nick Toon and Isaac Anderson combined for 52 yards on six catches, but failed to record a touchdown between them for just the second time this season. Maurice Moore also grabbed one pass for nine yards.
Tight ends — 4 of 5
The Wisconsin tight ends had another strong day against Minnesota, with Garrett Graham quickly becoming Tolzien’s favorite target in the passing game. Graham grabbed seven passes for 68 yards, helping keep the Gopher defense off balance and open up the running game. Lance Kendricks continued to show why the coaches like him so much, making an acrobatic catch in the back of the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
Offensive line — 5 of 5
This unit is finally getting healthy and it showed Saturday against the Gophers. For the fourth time this season, they did not allow a sack, keeping their total to a mere two sacks allowed this season. In the running game, they opened plenty of holes, which allowed Clay to dominate the game offensively.
Defensive line — 4 of 5
Wisconsin put a lot of pressure on UM quarterback Adam Weber all game long with the guys up front, and the defensive line recorded four and a half of the Badgers’ five sacks. O’Brien Schofield led the way as usual, picking up two sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and a crucial forced fumble on the Gophers’ last drive.
Schofield was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his performance and moved into a tie for the national lead in tackles for loss with 11, which also leads the Big Ten. It was just the second time during a full slate of Big Ten games that Wisconsin has swept the offensive and defensive honors.
Linebackers — 4 of 5
The Wisconsin linebackers did not have as many tackles as usual this week, but they came up with big plays when it mattered. In particular, freshman Chris Borland recovered the fumble in the last minute that allowed the Badgers to seal the victory.
Secondary — 4 of 5
Although Weber and Eric Decker had strong games statistically — Weber threw for 271 yards on 16-of-31 passes and a touchdown to Decker, who caught eight passes for 140 yards — the UW secondary had an above average game and continued to improve.
All four cornerbacks and both safeties combined in coverage on Decker, limiting his impact. He was especially ineffective in the red zone, handicapping the Minnesota offense since no other receivers could pick up the slack.
They did struggle to stop the big play on occasion, however, giving up passes of 40, 38 and 25 yards in the game. Two of those (a 40-yarder to Decker and a 38-yarder to Nick Tow-Arnett) came on back-to-back plays to set up the Gophers’ final touchdown.
Specialists — 2 of 5
If there was one unit that really did not come to play against the Gophers, it was the special teams. More specifically, the kick coverage unit struggled all day. Minnesota returner Troy Stoudermire returned four kicks for 138 yards, an average of 34.5 yards per return.
Wisconsin’s David Gilreath, on the other hand, had just 65 yards on four kick returns, and two yards on his only punt return. Brad Nortman did have a strong game, however, recording 101 yards on two punts. Kicker Philip Welch connected on his only field goal, a 39-yarder, and made every extra point.