No. 13 Wisconsin Trounces Michigan as Wolverines Fall to 1-3 in Big Ten Play
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Tony Ding/Associated Press

The No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers crushed the unranked Michigan Wolverines 49-11 in a road matchup at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium on Saturday.

Nakia Watson and Mason Stokke each scored a pair of touchdowns in the first 20 minutes for Wisconsin, who out-gained Michigan 189-5 during that time span. Watson’s 10-yard touchdown run put Wisconsin up 27-0 with 10:07 remaining in the second quarter.

ESPN @espn

The Badgers are dominating the Wolverines ♨️ https://t.co/fUi4Wwwsbq

The Badgers intercepted Michigan starting quarterback Joe Milton twice to set up both of Stokke’s touchdowns en route to a 28-0 halftime lead. They scored three more touchdowns in the second half.

Wisconsin had not played since Oct. 23, when the Badgers beat Illinois 45-7 to open their season. Five days later, Wisconsin paused all football team activities because of an elevated number of COVID-19 cases within the program. An Oct. 31 matchup with Nebraska and a Nov. 7 game against Purdue were canceled.

The Badgers are now 2-0 with four games remaining. The 1-3 Wolverines have lost three straight.

Notable Performances

Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz: 12-of-22, 127 passing yards, 2 TD

Wisconsin RB Nakia Watson: 12 carries, 65 rushing yards, 2 TD

Wisconsin FB Mason Stokke: 4 carries, 11 rushing yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 1 receiving yard, 1 TD

Michigan QB Cade McNamara: 4-of-7, 74 passing yards, 1 TD

Michigan WR Mike Sainristil: 1 catch, 23 receiving yards, 1 TD

Wisconsin Defense Doesn’t Give Michigan a Chance

The Badgers defense didn’t allow a point in its season-opening win over Illinois, with the Fighting Illini’s only touchdown occurring off a fumble return.

Although Wisconsin hadn’t played for three weeks, there were no signs of rust Saturday as the defense dominated once again.

Wisconsin safety Scott Nelson got it going with by picking off Milton on Michigan’s first play from scrimmage:

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

The Badger defense is on their toes 👀🔥 https://t.co/Zzc0SlU73c

After Wisconsin scored a touchdown, Michigan found itself in more trouble on a 3rd-and-16. Milton then threw directly to Badger linebacker Leo Chenal, and he set up Wisconsin on Michigan’s 14-yard line for another score.

Big Ten Network @BigTenNetwork

The @BadgerFootball defense has been on the field twice.

It has two interceptions.

@chenal_leo does the honors here. https://t.co/qb7RVOjkU0

A Michigan three-and-out then led to another Wisconsin touchdown, and that sequence repeated itself once more. After all that, Wisconsin was up 28-0, and the game was all but over.

Wisconsin’s suffocating first-quarter defense produced half of this eye-popping statistic:

Wisconsin Football @BadgerFootball

Total yards after one quarter:

Wisconsin 129, Michigan 1

#OnWisconsin » #Badgers https://t.co/YmDDrorQ0a

The Wolverines couldn’t even catch a break late in the second quarter after they finally got in a rhythm and mounted a 74-yard drive all the way to the one-yard line.

They initially appeared to score a touchdown before a review put the ball back at the Wisconsin one-yard line. The Badgers then stonewalled Milton’s sneak attempt:

Big Ten Network @BigTenNetwork

Michigan had its TD overturned.

It went for it on 4th-and-goal.

@iloudermilk111 and the @BadgerFootball D weren’t having it, 😤 https://t.co/FwgKGbaKhP

Granted, Wisconsin has crushed two teams who are a combined 2-6, but this Badgers defense looks like it can hang with anyone right now. A much stiffer test awaits on Saturday when they visit undefeated Northwestern.

Murphy’s Law for Michigan in Disastrous Home Outing

There’s no other way to say it: Michigan’s first-half performance was historically bad, as ESPN Stats & Info noted with a pair of bewildering stats for a blue-blood program:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Michigan’s defense has 0 sacks and has forced 0 turnovers in their last 5 halves of football. They’re the first Big Ten team over the last 15 seasons to not record a sack or a takeaway in 5 consecutive halves.

It didn’t get much better in the second half either.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Michigan suffered its largest home loss since Nov. 23, 1935, a 38-0 loss to Ohio State.

They fall to 1-3 this season, its worst 4-game start to a season since 1967. The only season in school history with a worse 4-game start was 1928. https://t.co/vabyq9pAht

The Wolverines were the No. 13 team in the Associated Press poll after a season-opening win over Minnesota. They are now in contention to finish last in the Big Ten for the first time since 1962.

Michigan had a few notable edges over Wisconsin going into this game even if it was considered an underdog. For starters, the Wolverines were home. In addition, the Badgers hadn’t played in three weeks, and part of that time period included a pause on team activities due to a COVID-19 spike within the program.

Stewart Mandel of The Athletic noted Wisconsin’s obstacles heading in, and they ultimately did not matter:

Stewart Mandel @slmandel

Wisconsin hasn’t played in three weeks, didn’t practice for 11 days and still looks sharper than Michigan.

The Wolverines haven’t finished higher than fifth in the Associated Press poll since winning the national championship in 1997, but this proud program has still registered winning seasons in all but three years this century.

Losing season No. 4 appears imminent, however, and this team appears in danger of seeing this year slide into even deeper trouble by the end with games against a high-powered Maryland offense and a national powerhouse in Ohio State closing the year.

ESPN color commentator Kirk Herbstreit was in disbelief:    

Steve Lorenz @TremendousUM

‘I can’t believe this is the Big House and that this is Michigan Football we’re watching’ – Herbie

And Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News put it bluntly:

Bob Wojnowski @bobwojnowski

What a miserable performance by Michigan. Wisconsin up 28-0 at half. Obviously, Badgers are very good. But Michigan coaches should be ashamed of themselves, starting with Harbaugh and Don Brown. Players look mentally weak, defeated, but coaches providing nothing.

Questions will certainly arise about the future of head coach Jim Harbaugh, whose seven-year, $52.1 million contract runs through 2021.

To Harbaugh’s credit, his teams have flirted with national championship contention in the past, and he’s led them to three 10-win seasons.

However, Michigan has also lost four straight bowl games, and the bottom appears to have completely fallen out in Ann Arbor, with the exclamation point occurring Saturday.

What’s Next?

Both teams have road games Saturday. Wisconsin will visit Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, and Michigan will head to Piscataway, New Jersey, to take on Rutgers.

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