ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Before the kickoff, the energy around the “Big House” was palpable as Michigan fans and Wisconsin fans knew the significance of this game touted as a College Football Playoff elimination game between the No. 12 Michigan Wolverines and the No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers.
But Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 6-1 Overall) and head coach Jim Harbaugh steamrolled the Badgers (2-1, 4-2) 38-13 in Saturday night primetime.
The question for UW was how their patchwork defense, caused by injuries and suspensions, would stand up against the Wolverines offense. The answer, at least in the first quarter, was quite well as the Badger defense held the Michigan offense to a 13 play, 55 yard drive which resulted in a 41-yard missed yard field goal from Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin.
But Wisconsin’s offense was unable to take advantage of their defense’s performance. When they got their hands on the ball both times, they were unable to execute and forced to punt both times.
The Michigan offense could execute, with a responded 85-yard drive to score. The main damage of that drive came from a read-option keeper from Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, who scampered up field for 81-yards before he was forced out of bounds by freshman cornerback Rachad Wildgoose.
Wisconsin’s dormant offense looked to respond and it finally woke up in the running game, as sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor earned 38 tough yards, and wide receiver Kendric Pryor capped off the drive with a 33-yard score on the reverse to tie it up .
After trading punts, Michigan broke the tie with a field goal to make it 10-7 late in the second quarter. Then, Wisconsin junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw an interception to give the Wovlerines’ great field position, coming up with a field goal to put Michigan up 13-7 at the half. The Wolverines also missed two field goals, meaning the scoreline could’ve been worse for the Badgers.
Then in the second half, the Wolverines basically devoured the Badgers. Michigan outscored Wisconsin 25-6 in the second half as they asserted their dominance on the Badgers offense, which was lethargic.
Wisconsin couldn’t get anything going in the passing game, as Alex Hornibrook finished 7-for-20 with only 100 yards, probably his worst ever passing game while starting for the Badgers. Even with Jonathan Taylor getting 100 yards, UW could never sustain a drive and the athletic Michigan defense forced them to punt early and often on their drives.
Wisconsin’s injuries on defense, especially the in secondary, seemed to finally catch up with them, as they were fooled throughout the second half and couldn’t hold back Michigan’s offense after mostly holding them except for the one big run by Shea Patterson to set up their first touchdown.
The only highlight for the Wisconsin Badgers in the second half was a late drive engineered by Hornibrook what proved to be futile in limiting the bleeding as the Badgers were unable to recover the ensuing onside kick and thus ended a night that they would like to forget in Ann Arbor.