IOWA CITY, Iowa – Wisconsin went into Kinnick Stadium and did what few teams have been able to do on Saturday night, keep its dreams of a national championship alive. The Badgers rallied from a late 17-14 deficit to take the lead with under a minute to play before icing the game with a turnover and another touchdown.
Here’s how each of Wisconsin’s units graded out in Saturday night’s 28-17 win over Iowa.
Offense – B+
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook led the Badgers on a game-winning drive that culminated on a 17-yard touchdown strike to A.J. Taylor with 57 seconds left in regulation. That was probably the most important drive of Hornibrook’s football life and he stepped up.
Saturday night wasn’t exactly a replica performance of the 2017 Orange Bowl for Hornibrook, but it was the closest thing he’s had to it since that game. He finished 17-of-22 for 205 yards, three scores and no interceptions. He was exactly what Wisconsin needed, even if he was late on a couple throws. Hornibrook stayed away from the big mistake all night and found a way to win the game.
Wisconsin also unleashed a jumbo package on Saturday night that featured Logan Bruss and Jason Erdmann in eligible numbers and lining up at tight ends. For those counting at home it means Wisconsin had seven 300-pound player on the field at one time. The Badgers started off incredibly run heavy, sticking to the ground game for 10 of the first 13 plays of the game.
Despite that, it felt like there was more to be desired from running back Jonathan Taylor on the night. He finished with 25 carries for 113 yards – a solid night for most – but the issue is that Wisconsin’s rushing attack doesn’t have the feeling like Taylor is set to pop loose at any time for 70-plus yards. In 2017 that was the case, but it hasn’t been thus far this season.
Defense – B
Much like the offense, the defense stepped up for the Badgers when it was needed most. Iowa had an opportunity to ice the game in the fourth quarter, leading 17-14 with the ball and 8:34 left in regulation. Wisconsin’s defense was on the field for six plays and gave up 32 yards before forcing the Hawkeyes into a punt setting up the game-winning drive orchestrated by Hornibrook.
After the Badgers took the lead the defense immediately shut the door. Linebacker T.J. Edwards intercepted Nate Stanley’s pass on third and four with 38 seconds left in regulation to ice the game.
The performance wasn’t nearly as dominant as 2017’s against Iowa where Wisconsin allowed just 66 yards of offense. Stanley made some very impressive throws for Iowa, including a couple passes of 30 yards or more. Iowa also ran for 4.8 yards per carry, which isn’t great, either.
All in all, Wisconsin’s defense giving the offense a chance late and then shutting the door at the end is more than enough to earn a solid grade.
Special Teams – A-
Okay, so, not everything was great about the special teams performance as there was a long kickoff return called back due to a holding penalty and the Badgers allowed a 25-yard punt return to Iowa at one point (later fumbled).
But, that unit created a pair of turnovers, including handing the offense the ball at Iowa’s 10-yard line after a punt hit an Iowa player’s foot and was recovered by the Badgers leading to a touchdown three plays later.
Anytime special teams causes two turnovers, they’re deserving of at least an “A-“ on the day.
Fun Fact: A (or F, depending on what side of the bet was taken)
Fullback Alec Ingold scored a touchdown from 33 yards out with 22 seconds left in regulation to make the score 28-17. That touchdown pushed the game total score to 45 points, just eclipsing the 44-point mark that Vegas had set as the over/under. If you took the over, congrats.
If you took the under, well, yikes.