Wisconsin football at Minnesota 11-27-21

Wisconsin wide receivers Jack Dunn (16) and Markus Allen (4) walk off the field after a late turnover on downs against Minnesota on Saturday in Minneapolis.

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Jim Polzin grades the Wisconsin Badgers’ performance in their 23-13 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Offense: F

The Badgers finished with 62 yards rushing, their second-lowest total of the season, and that putrid output didn’t even include any lost yardage from sacks. Braelon Allen didn’t have many big holes to run through, but the freshman tailback looked indecisive for much of the game. Graham Mertz looked good on the first series and went downhill from there, finishing 21 of 38 with several misfires and an interception that flipped the momentum in the game.

Defense: C-

Scott Nelson’s interception return provided the only touchdown for the Badgers, but the defense didn’t make enough big plays beyond that and struggled at times to get off the field on third down. Minnesota produced six explosive plays through the air while averaging 18.1 yards per completion. Both Nelson and fellow safety John Torchio got caught with their eyes in the backfield on plays that ended with long receptions for Minnesota tight ends.

The University of Wisconsin football team surrendered Paul Bunyan's Axe after the Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the 18th-ranked Badgers 23-13 on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Special teams: D

On a day the offense was struggling, the Badgers needed an impact play or two from this unit and got nothing. UW’s kickoff unit had two holding penalties and returner Stephan Bracey made some questionable decisions on choosing returns over touchbacks. Collin Larsh came up just short on a 48-yard field goal he probably shouldn’t have been attempting in the first place.

Coaching: D-

The Badgers faced a fourth-and-1 in their own territory while trailing by 10 points with just more than four minutes remaining in the game — and sent out the punt unit. UW coach Paul Chryst took the blame for that spineless decision, and it wasn’t his only failure in this big game. The offense he leads was pitiful and its play-caller couldn’t find any answers to give it a much-needed boost.

Overall: D

UW was a completely different outfit in all three phases than the one that had won seven games in a row to put itself in position to win the Big Ten West Division. The Badgers’ big moment had arrived after they’d worked wonders to resurrect their season, and they bombed when it mattered most.

By the numbers

2.8

UW's average on its 22 rushing attempts. That’s the Badgers’ lowest average since being limited to 1.3 yards per carry by Michigan earlier this season, their previous loss before Saturday.

14

The offense failed to score a touchdown, snapping a streak of 14 consecutive games with at least one offensive touchdown. The last team to hold UW without an offensive touchdown was Indiana last season.

9

Mertz threw one interception in the loss. The redshirt sophomore has thrown at least one interception in nine of the 19 games he has played over the past two seasons.

155

Amount of penalty yards combined for UW and Minnesota. That’s the most combined penalty yards in a UW game since Purdue and UW combined for 173 in the Badgers’ 47-44 triple-overtime win Nov. 17, 2018.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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