MADISON, Wis. — BYU proved overmatched by a physically dominant Wisconsin team in a 27-17 loss Saturday afternoon in Madison. The Badgers owned the trenches on both sides of the football and generally outclassed BYU in execution and overall athleticism.
Grades are in for a BYU team that fought hard but ultimately came up short against the No. 21-ranked Badgers.
BYU’s offense saw some production, but too much inconsistency and a slow start provided just 17 points against a very stingy Badger defense. Ultimately the offense gained 370 yards with a balanced attack, but too many quick possessions paved the way for Wisconsin to control the flow of the game from start to finish.
Quarterback Taysom Hill went 19-41 through the air for just 207 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was never able to exploit his receivers' size advantage over Wisconsin’s cornerbacks and was limited considerably running the football. On the day, Hill ran it 17 times for just 53 yards.
Running back Jamaal Williams ran it 14 times for 76 yards while Paul Lasike had four rushes for 29 yards. Receiver Cody Hoffman again proved BYU’s best offensive weapon with seven receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Penalties during crucial situations worked to stall drives along with a porous 7-19 in third-down conversions.
BYU yielded 425 yards and 27 points defensively and allowed Wisconsin to control the ball for sustained drives that ultimately wore the unit down. Although Wisconsin converted just seven of its 17 third-down situations, three of those conversions came during a back-breaking touchdown drive that put the Badgers up 17-3 at the end of the first half.
The Cougars were weak at the point of attack and allowed too many yards up the middle to running backs James White and Melvin Gordon, who averaged 6.4 and 4.5 yards per run respectively.
The pass rush was generally ineffective throughout most of the game as Wisconsin picked up most blitz packages thrown its way. Play-action proved very effective given the Badgers' success running the football.
Wisconsin’s offensive front was extremely physical and easily the best BYU has faced this season. The defense had its moments, but the Badger front controlled the pace of the game and was the biggest reason for the ultimate outcome.
Special teams didn’t play a big factor in the outcome. Both teams were remarkably similar on the stat sheet with regards to yardage gained on kick and punt returns, although BYU did enjoy a sizable edge in punt average courtesy of a 73-yard punt by Scott Arrellano late in the game.
The defense looked unusually unprepared for Wisconsin's straight-forward attack from the outset — yielding a long touchdown drive on the game's first possession. The defense settled down and withstood some punches, but the first drive set the tone and forced BYU to play catchup.
Several curious plays on offense stand out, including Robert Anae calling for two Jamaal Williams runs with just 10 seconds left in the half opposed to just taking a knee. Anae has been burned with such decisions in the past, but was fortunate this decision did not.
One also has to question Bronco Mendenhall's decision to punt the football in a fourth and nine situation at midfield with his team down 27-10 and just over seven minutes remaining.
BYU squandered a rare November opportunity to beat a top 25 program and force itself into the national spotlight. The Cougars certainly weren't embarassed, and fought hard, but ended the afternoon as clearly the inferior to a very good Wisconsin football team.