Saturday night in a highly anticipated match-up between No. 12 University of Michigan and the No. 15 University of Wisconsin, the Badgers couldn’t crack the code that was the Wolverine’s top-ranked defense in the nation.
An anemic aerial attack from Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook (7/20, 100 yards, 1TD, 2 INT) could not be overcome by running back Jonathan Taylor’s 101 yards on 17 carries as they failed to match Michigan’s steady offensive night.
Taylor opened up the game for the Badgers with three consecutive carries for a total of 17 yards, as the UW offense hoped to set an aggressive tone early against the touted Michigan run stopping force.
After a short run by running back Taiwan Deal, Hornibrook let fly an ugly attempt that was nearly picked off, but instead deflected into the hands of receiver Kendric Pryor short of the first down, forcing the Badgers to punt, bringing the promising opening drive to a screeching halt.
This would be a sign of things to come.
On the ensuing Michigan possession, quarterback Shea Patterson got off to a hot start.
He went 5/5 with 46 yards as he picked apart the Badger zone defense with short, quick passes that aided Michigan on their 13-play drive, though it culminated in a missed 41-yard field goal.
The first quarter would wind to a close after another fruitless Badger drive ended when punter Anthony Lotti sending one deep into Michigan territory.
Starting from the 14-yard line, Patterson fooled the Badger defense with play action, then took off for an 81-yard gut-punch to bring the Wolverines to within striking distance, setting up an easy two-yard touchdown from running back Karan Higdon.
The Badgers would respond promptly, in proper Wisconsin fashion with the run game.
Following a few classic Taylor runs up the middle for 5, 10 and 23 yards a piece, Pryor would take an end-around and finish up the quick Badger scoring drive with a 33-yard, game-tying touchdown.
The momentum seemed to carry over to the Wisconsin defense, as they stuffed Michigan on the next drive for three straight incomplete passes and a punt.
The Badgers wouldn’t be able to capitalize.
Despite facing a second and two yards, a muffed snap and a sack would keep the game knotted up at 7-7, and gave Michigan the ball back after a 38-yard punt.
The Wolverines looked poised to reach the end zone, led by Shea Patterson’s smart decision-making as the Wolverine’s plodded downfield.
Instead, Badger linebacker T.J. Edwards landed a timely sack to force third and long, and allowed UW to hold Michigan to a field goal.
They would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game.
The Badgers gave up the first turnover of the game on an ugly Hornibrook interception, and Michigan would come back for their second field goal in just 1:01 to extend their lead to 13-7.
The Badgers continued their offensive struggles, once again going three-and-out and extending their third down drought to 0-4.
Despite a 52-yard Lotti Punt, Michigan receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones neutralized the fight for field position with a 26 yard return to give the Wolverine’s possession on the Wisconsin 49 yard line.
Before the half Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh trotted out kicker Quinn Nordin to nab yet another field goal, but the 54-yard distance stumped him and the Badgers would remain down six entering halftime.
A costly mistake on a roughing the snapper penalty scrapped a strong Badger defensive stand to open the second half, giving Michigan a new set of downs, which they would make the most of.
Thanks in large part to a 25-yard run by Higdon, as well as a change-of-pace from the secondary running back Chris Evans, Patterson was able to polish off the fortuitous drive with a seven yard touchdown scramble.
After an easy two-point conversion, Michigan jumped out to a 21-7 lead.
Wisconsin was unable to find retribution on their next drive, as Hornibrook continued to flounder, bringing his stat line to an ugly 3-9, for 25 yards.
Then it would go punt, punt, punt as both teams failed consecutively to create anything on offense.
Entering the fourth quarter Michigan held their two score lead in large part thanks to the ineffectiveness of the Wisconsin offense.
Michigan plowed on, relying heavily on Higdon who eclipsed the 100-yard mark, they tacked on another field goal and put the Badgers in crisis-mode: down 17 with an offense that’s been disappointing all night long.
Disappointing became an understatement when Hornibrook was stuck with his second interception of the night. This time it was brought back for a score which increased the Michigan lead to 31-7 and all but sealed the game.
Garbage time touchdowns from both sides brought the final score to 38-13 Michigan, Wisconsin faces Illinois next Saturday at Camp Randall.