In a close matched, typical Big Ten football game controlled by two tough defenses, the Wisconsin Badgers fell to Michigan in Ann Arbor 14-7.
The first half was a game of defenses with Michigan making some big plays against a young quarterback in Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook and an inconsistent offensive line plagued by injuries. Wisconsin was shut out during the first half and struggled again with third down efficiency. While senior running back Corey Clement did start the game, he was held to nine runs for 31 yards in the first half. Senior wide receiver Robert Wheelwright had the most receptions with two for 44 yards. The normal pairing of Hornibrook to Peavy looked a little lackluster with several missed catches between the two.
The offensive line appeared inconsistent and out of sync in the first half. Hornibrook and his offense linemen seemed to suffer miscommunication several times in the game including a botched snap in the first half and a quarterback trip-up in the fourth quarter. In the first half, Hornibrook was 5-13 for only 64 yards and one interception.
In what everyone expected to be a struggle for Wisconsin rather than Michigan, the latter team struggled to put up necessary points in field goal range. Wisconsin was without starting kicker Rafael Gaglianone to a season-ending back injury. Michigan’s kicker, however, missed three consecutive field goals, which in such a close-matched, low scoring game, were essential. Wisconsin’s special team’s unit was also able to hold Michigan’s multi-purpose linebacker/safety who excels on all three sides of the ball including punt returns, Jabrill Peppers.
The Wisconsin defense is what kept the game close on Saturday, holding a Michigan offense that averages 52 points a game to only 7 in the first half. Inside linebacker Jack Cichy lead the team with six tackles and 0.5 sack in the first half. In the second half, he would provide the crucial tip that would lead to an interception by cornerback Derrick Tindal. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who was without his teammate Vince Biegel, also played strong, particularly putting the necessary pressure on Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight.
Following Tindal’s third quarter interception, the Wisconsin offense was finally able to get some momentum that lead to a Ogunbowale catch and run for the touchdown to tie the game. The offense did not appear with the same confidence and ease that they showed in East Lansing, however.
Hornibrook would miss a wide open Jazz Peavy in the second half, which could have put the Badgers up one touchdown. Against Michigan State, Hornibrook appeared calm under pressure, but that was not the case in Ann Arbor. Most notably, he threw two fourth quarterback interceptions while under pressure from Michigan’s aggressive defense.
Michigan’s offense brought back a typical Big Ten run game in the second half. Speight was able to drive the ball down the field and bring in the second touchdown with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Michigan defense did the rest to win the game.
Michigan’s defense was not only able to slow Wisconsin’s offense but make big plays against them, particularly putting pressure on the young Wisconsin quarterback. Hornibrook finished the game with nine of 25 throws for 88 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. While Hornibrook did not appear the same poised quarterback as weeks prior, the overall cohesiveness of the offense proved to be a difficult in Saturday’s game. The offensive line did not give the same protection, especially with the many adjustments due to injuries.
A positive note to an unfortunate ending was the Wisconsin defense being able to hold Michigan to only 14 points and make several big plays against a well-balanced team even without starting linebacker Vince Biegel. With Biegel only out 2-4 weeks, Wisconsin is not out of the competition just yet.
Wisconsin falls to 4-1 and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Michigan remains undefeated. Wisconsin will have their bye next week and return to Camp Randall in two weeks for their night game against Ohio State on Saturday Oct. 15.
Photo courtesy of The Detroit News