Badgers too much for Michigan on both sides of ball
MADISON, Wisc. - The 37-21 final score might suggest that Wisconsin dominated throughout, but for a brief period of time the Wolverines had possession of the football with only a field goal needed to claim the lead. The Badger defense would have none of that on Senior Day. The win was not only a boost for program pride; it probably will help place Wisconsin in a respectable bowl at season's end.
Coach Bret Bielema explained his team's journey best: "We may not be the prettiest girl in high school, but people still stand in line to take us to prom."
A few notes on this game:
Quarterback Tyler Donovan's ability to gain yards on the ground when plays broke down was a key to the Badgers' success. And his arm was given plenty of work, too. Tight end Travis Beckum and receiver Paul Hubbard both had more than 100 yards receiving on the day.
The Badger defense, though, was the greatest surprise on this day. As one fellow writer sitting next to me put it, 'Where have these guys been?' The secondary kept Michigan's receivers under wraps for much of the day and the front seven owned the line of scrimmage.
With P.J. Hill limited by an injury, and Lance Smith on the sideline after injuring his shoulder, Wisconsin freshman Zach Brown carried 25 times, gained 103 yards, and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Michigan also went without its top back -- Mike Hart. Youngsters Brandon Minor (26 yards) and Carlos Brown (38 yards) played well, but neither was able to help the Wolverines establish any rhythm on offense.
Offensive player of the game: Tyler Donovan, QB, Wisconsin
Hmmm, let's see: 245 yards passing, 49 yards rushing, no sacks, no interceptions. Donovan played, perhaps, his best game (certainly one of his cleanest) in the Badgers' most important game of the year. He was injured on his team's last drive, and the offense was not the same with Allan Evridge in the game.
Defensive player of the game: Shane Carter, S, Wisconsin
The safety had two interceptions, the second of which was an easy pop-fly that Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallett threw up for grabs. That play was important, however, as it deflated the Wolverines' second-half momentum.
Play of the game: fourth quarter sack on Mallett
A determined Badger pass rush chased down Ryan Mallett on Michigan's attempt for a go-ahead drive. The crowd wanted an intentional grounding. What it got was a holding call that Bret Bielema wisely declined, leaving Michigan with a third-and-forever from deep inside its own territory. Mallett threw an interception to Jack Ikegwuonu on the next play and that all but finished off the Wolverines.
What the highlight shows won't show you:
The shows may pick one of Donovan's nifty runs, but they certainly won't have enough air time to show all of them. Time after time the senior quarterback made plays with his feet.
Freshman Aaron Henry and junior Jack Ikegwuonu both had solid games. Henry did what was asked of him against an experienced, talented Michigan receiving corps. Ikegwuonu defended several passes, nabbed the clinching interception, downed a punt at the two-yard line, and was fairly effective in shutting down Manningham. The only thing fans are likely to see in the highlights, however, are the two plays (one touchdown apiece) the cornerbacks allowed to help Michigan get back into the game. Said Bielema, "I knew they were going after Aaron Henry in his first start and I like the way he responded."
Hubbard had a career day in his final Camp Randall appearance. His biggest catch was his last, a leaping first down grab.
On one interesting call, the referees ruled that both players had possession of the football, and a catch was awarded to Michigan. The Badger crowd was outraged. In his post-game press conference, Bielema added a little humor to his side of the argument. "Last time I saw that Moby Dick was a tadpole," he said.
Michigan will host Ohio State in a game to decide the conference.
Wisconsin will travel to Minnesota to close out its season in the annual battle for the Paul Bunyan Axe.