Wisconsin Football: Grading the Badgers Loss vs. Michigan State
Spartan Stadium is quickly turning into a house of horrors for the Badgers.
Last season, Michigan State handed Wisconsin their only loss of the season in East Lansing, and this weekend the Spartans ruined Bucky's dream season in Michigan.
After jumping ahead 14-0 to start the game, a slew of mistakes and missed opportunities doomed Wisconsin.
Now, it's likely Rose Bowl or bust for Bret Bielema's team.
It took seven games, but Russell Wilson finally proved he's human.
After starting the season absolutely perfect, Wilson missed some key throws and fumbled away a first down run against the Spartans.
Of his seven incompletions, two were interceptions, two were sure touchdowns, one resulted in a safety due to an intentional grounding call and one would have been a first down.
If not for the two clutch, late-fourth quarter drives that tied the game for Wisconsin, this grade would be much lower.
Running Backs: B+
The running game was good, and Montee Ball proved just how valuable he is to the Badgers' offense.
Wisconsin had 220 yards on the ground, and Ball was stellar again with a 115 yards and a touchdown.
When the Badger's No. 1 back missed time with a head injury, Wisconsin's offense stalled.
James White was okay in Ball's place, but they are clearly not the same offense with him on the sideline.
Wide Receivers: C
Dropped balls, poor routes and a mediocre performance from No. 1 receiver Nick Toon played a big part in the Badgers' defeat.
The normally sure-handed Jared Abbrederis dropped a touchdown on a perfectly thrown deep ball, and Toon and Wilson never got on the same page.
Offensive Line: B+
This unit was the bright spot for the Badgers on Saturday.
They did give up three sacks, but they consistently paved big holes for Ball and the rest of the Badger backs.
Wisconsin averaged 5.4 yards per carry against a good Spartans D.
Defensive Line: B
For the most part, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins had too much time to throw, but the run defense was solid and there were a couple of stellar individual performances on the Badgers D-line.
Wisconsin allowed just 3.4 yards per carry, and defensive end Brendan Kelly was a beast with four tackles, two TFLs and two sacks.
Kelly also forced a fumble late in the game when the score was tied at 31. Had the Badgers recovered, they'd be No. 3 in the nation today.
The linebackers struggled in coverage and missed too many tackles.
MSU's receivers consistently sat down underneath coverage and turned short passes into big gains and big plays because of missed assignments and poor tackling.
Like the linebackers, too many blown coverages and missed tackles from the secondary.
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins looked more like Russell Wilson, completing 22 of his 31 passes for almost 300 yards and three TDs.
On the game-winning score, Wisconsin's secondary (and Jared Abbrederis) failed to knock the ball down on Cousins' Hail Mary.
Special Teams: F
A blocked field goal and a blocked punt led to two Michigan State touchdowns.
End of story.
Way too many questionable calls to give the coaches anything better than an F.
The late-game timeouts would've been okay if they worked out, but they didn't.
And why is Jared Abbrederis in the game to defend against the Hail Mary instead of Nick Toon?
First, the bad news: Wisconsin can kiss their national title hopes goodbye, and the name Russell Wilson is no longer synonymous with the Heisman Trophy.
Now, the good news: The Badgers have a very favorable schedule ahead of them, and they should have no trouble running the table and securing a berth in the inaugural Big Ten title game.
If they make it to Indianapolis, they will likely be pitted in a rematch with either Nebraska or Michigan State for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
It's up to Bielema and the coaching staff to keep the Badgers' focus now that their dream season is over.