Every week Herald Sports will analyze the most recent Wisconsin football game and hand out grades for each position group on a scale from zero to five. Let’s examine how the Badgers scored in their upset victory over No. 1 Ohio State.
Quarterbacks – 4 out of 5
Senior quarterback Scott Tolzien had been waiting months for another shot against the Buckeyes after last year’s debacle in Columbus. He knew he needed to avoid mistakes and get the ball in his playmakers’ hands this time around, and aside from one poor throw, Tolzien was spot-on. He finished 13-16 for 152 yards and made a number of clutch third down throws to keep the chains moving. He avoided the pass rush and put his offense in advantageous situations by making a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage. The one interception is a throw Tolzien wants back, but overall it was a solid, efficient day for the senior signal caller.
Running backs – 5 out of 5
In case you haven’t already heard, the Buckeyes had refused to allow a 100-yard rusher in 29 games until they came to Madison. Junior running back John Clay ran through that physical front seven and ended that impressive streak by totaling 106 yards on the ground. Clay also ran for two touchdowns as he ran with a purpose all night. Unfortunately for OSU, James White was just as good. The freshman ran for 75 yards and scored a critical 12-yard touchdown to give the Badgers a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Wide receivers – 4 out of 5
The Badgers did most of their work on the ground, but the wideouts made the most of their opportunities. Nick Toon won his matchup with OSU corner Chimdi Checkwa and the junior proved to be Tolzien’s go-to target, catching seven balls. David Gilreath’s 97-yard kickoff return was a game-changer and the senior also had a big 18-yard grab to give the Badgers a key first down. Isaac Anderson only had two catches, but both were critical for UW to effectively move the chains.
Tight ends – 3.5 out of 5
It was a quiet day for senior captain Lance Kendricks through the air, but the tight end always contributes for the running game with his tremendous blocking. The attention Kendricks draws also opens up some space for the Badgers wideouts, but the tight ends weren’t completely shut down. Freshman Jacob Pedersen hauled in a 33-yard catch in the final stages off of play action to help UW close out the game.
Offensive line – 5 out of 5
The Badger O-line looked like the best unit in the country Saturday. Plain and simple. Against one of the toughest defensive lines in college football, UW ran for 184 yards and Tolzien was never sacked. The Buckeyes were bringing eight, sometimes, nine defenders into the box and it didn’t make a difference. Wisconsin’s offensive line, led by seniors John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi, played a game for the ages Saturday and they are the main reason UW came away with the victory.
Defensive line – 4.5 out of 5
UW’s defensive line faced a tall order trying to contain Terrelle Pryor, but the Badger front men came through in a big way. Pryor was sacked three times (twice by J.J. Watt, who also had three tackles for loss) and he was contained in the pocket for most of the night. The D-line was tough against the run and freed up space for the linebackers to make plays. And yeah, Watt is an absolute beast.
Linebackers – 4.5 out of 5
Senior Blake Sorensen was the man making most of those plays for the UW linebackers. Sorensen had 10 total tackles to lead the team and recorded the game-sealing interception during the Buckeyes’ final drive. Senior captain Culmer St. Jean was tremendous as well, especially around the goal line where he kept Pryor out of the endzone and forced a field goal in the first half. Kevin Claxton also filled in nicely for the injured Mike Taylor and racked up 6 tackles of his own.
Secondary – 4 out of 5
Saturday was by far the best performance we’ve seen from the UW secondary in recent years. OSU wideouts Devier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher were limited and the Badgers didn’t allow a touchdown though the air. Niles Brinkley and Antonio Fenelus had three pass breakups between them and the safeties kept everything in front of them. The secondary rose to the challenge and only allowed Pryor to complete 14 of his 28 pass attempts.
Specialists – 4 out of 5
Wisconsin got great production from the special teams and Phillip Welch and Brad Nortman made solid contributions. Welch nailed a 41-yard field goal (his only attempt of the night) and got good distance on his kickoffs to aid the coverage team. Additionally, Nortman punted well, averaging 50.5 yards on his two punts.