MADISON, Wis. — Just wait, you said. Just wait ’til they see a ranked team. Just wait until they see a name brand. A lineup with name-brand talent, name-brand cache.
Wisconsin 24, Michigan 10.
You were saying?
For two weeks, the pundits have been waiting for the Badgers’ other shoe to drop, for Cinderella’s carriage of grindy offense and gritty defense to turn back into another Big Ten West pumpkin.
Just wait ’til November, you said.
Well, we’re here, Sarge. Freezing our cajones off.
So are they.
No. 5 with a bullet.
Two ranked dance partners.
Two Top 25 scalps.
Same as Alabama.
Same as Clemson.
Same as Miami.
Same as Auburn.
Same as Georgia.
Wisconsin 24, Jim Harbaugh 10.
That sexy enough for you, Kirby Hocutt?
The Wolverines had spent most of the month running the ball with service academy precision and service academy glee. Michigan averaged 288.3 rushing yards in the three tilts leading up to Madison.
With 4 minutes left in the contest, they were stuck at 57, on 35 carries. A clip of 1.6 yards per tote.
Wisconsin 24, The Leaders and Best 10.
No words. Proud Alum. #11-0 #KeepSleepin
— Vince Biegel (@VinceBiegel) November 18, 2017
Eleven up. Eleven down. Minnesota (5-6) on deck. Another ranked Big Ten East blueblood waiting in the hole.
Whenever the Wolverines punched, the Badgers were ready with a counter. Down 10-7 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook answered on third-and-13 from his 31, dropping a rainbow up the left boundary to A.J. Taylor for a 51-yard gain — the offense’s first foray into the Michigan red zone all afternoon. Three plays later, on third-and-16, he found Taylor again, this time for a 24-yard strike and score, and a 13-10 lead.
This was bare-knuckle boxing in the snow, Fight Club in cleats. With the Big Ten’s top two total defenses locking horns, the action played out pretty much like they drew it up — the two teams combined for almost as many combined punts (9) in the first half as combined points (14). The Badgers, in particular, struggled to cope with whatever voodoo Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown threw at them early, converting only 1 of 6 third-down opportunities and driving past the 50 just once over the first two quarters.
Brown’s Wisconsin counterpart, Jim Leonhard, confused Wolverines signal caller Brandon Peters enough at the outset that the Wolverines already had burned through 3 timeouts by the final 2 minutes of the first period.
In a battle of attrition, it was the visitors who’d blinked first. Wisconsin played the field-position chess game late and early, pushing back, pushing back, then taking advantage when Nick Nelson fielded a punt at midfield with 1:15 left in the first quarter, breaking through a wave and running it back for a score that put the hosts up 6-0:
— Zach Stratton (@Zach_Stratton29) November 18, 2017
Wisconsin 24, Name-Brand Talent 10.
And if you thought that was fun, just wait.