Wisconsin came into the game with the second longest active home-winning streak in the nation at 21 games, their last loss at home coming on October 17th of 2009.
The Badgers defense had quite possibly their best game of the season, but in the end they were on the field just way too much as the Spartans’ quarterback Andrew Maxwell led his team on a pair of late touchdown drives.
What It Means: In regards to the Big Ten Championship, not much has changed for the Badgers. Their contenders in Purdue, Illinois and Indiana are a combined 1-11 in conference play. As for national perception, a lot changes for Wisconsin. A win against one of the best defenses in the nation would have confirmed the legitimacy of their offense, but a loss only brings up the questions once again. Not only that, an injury to starting quarterback Joel Stave brings Danny O’Brien back into the mix. If the play-calling near the end of the game was any indicator, it appears this team doesn’t have a lot of trust in O’Brien as they chose to run the wildcat formation at a critical time late in the game.
Player of the Game: DE David Gilbert (1.5 sacks, three tackles and a forced fumble)
Could have went with a lot of defensive guys here, but I thought Gilbert at times finally showed his explosiveness off the edge that we’ve always expected him to show. Granted the Spartans’ offensive line is one of the worst in the conference, it’s nice to see Gilbert dominate when he should. The Badgers weren’t able to recover his forced fumble, but it was his second of the season.
Highlight of the Game: In a play that should have locked the game up for the Badgers, Marcus Cromartie forced a fumble deep in Michigan State territory which was recovered by Warren Herring on the 18 yard line. On the ensuing play, James White took a direct snap in the “barge” formation and took it to the house. However, there was a holding call penalized on the Badgers. Wisconsin would settle for a 39 yard field goal by Kyle French.
Stat of the Game (19): Counting sacks, the Badgers accumulated only 19 net rushing yards on 37 carries which equates to a 0.5 average. Even without the sacks, Montee Ball had 46 yards on 22 carries (2.1 average) and James White 16 yards on seven carries (2.3 average). No matter what you want to say about Stave or O’Brien, the offensive line and run-game didn’t get it done against Michigan State.
Injury Report: In the press-conference, Bret Bielema confirmed Stave has a left shoulder injury. Seen leaving the locker room, Stave had his arm in a sling and appeared to be in a great deal of pain. I could be wrong, but a broken collar bone is a likely possibility.
What’s Next: From an injury standpoint, it’s a good thing the Badgers have a bye week coming up before they travel to Indiana (3-5, 1-3) on November 10th. But a full two weeks is a long time for the Wisconsin players and coaching staff to dwell on a loss to Michigan State they had no business losing.
What did you think of the Spartans unlikely win at Camp Randall? Let me know by commenting below.
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictures obtained from JSOnline.com.