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Tom Oates: Grading Badgers’ performance in win over Hawkeyes

September 23, 2018

Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates grades the Wisconsin Badgers’ performance in their 28-17 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

Offense: B

Jonathan Taylor and Taiwan Deal ran hard against one of the best front fours in college football. Alex Hornibrook was money on play-action passes. Is there anything Alec Ingold can’t do for a fullback? The game-winning 10-play, 88-yard drive was a thing of beauty, but holding penalties stalled too many drives.

Defense: B

The fourth-and-1 stop at the 5 on Iowa’s opening drive was huge. How could UW leave Noah Fant all alone for a touchdown? He’s only the nation’s best tight end. T.J. Edwards’ pick with 38 seconds left sealed the verdict. At times, young cornerbacks Deron Harrell, Faion Hicks and Madison Cone struggled in coverage.

Special teams: C-plus

Good news: D’Cota Dixon forced and recovered a fumble on a punt return. Bad news: Iowa’s Kyle Groeneweg had returned Anthony Lotti’s low punt 25 yards when he fumbled. Travian Blaylock alertly fell on the ball when an Iowa player kicked a rolling punt. Blaylock’s holding penalty negated a 39-yard kickoff return.

Coaching: B

In a successful effort to establish the run, UW started in a jumbo package with linemen Logan Bruss and Jason Erdmann at tight end, sometimes together. The Badgers went to the third-down draw play with Garrett Groshek once too often. UW could never manufacture a pass rush, which left the young secondary vulnerable.

Overall: B

In a game that determined who would have the upper hand in the West Division race, UW and Iowa battled back and forth all night. In the end, the Badgers had the resolve to drive 88 yards for the game-winning touchdown and then seal it with a game-clinching interception. Last week’s loss to BYU is now just a memory.

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