Rushing offense – B-
Despite no one running for more than 35 yards, Indiana earns a respectable mark thanks to the fact it actually out-gained one of the country's best running attacks, 125-103. Chris Taylor ran for 35 yards on 10 carries, and looked to be hitting the holes harder and faster than he did in the season's first two weeks. Blake Powers continues to show the ability to scramble for critical yards when the opportunity presents itself, and IU used the ground game as a way to get the ball in the hands of explosive slot receiver Marcus Thigpen, who had an 18-yard gainer on a reverse. The biggest negative was the costly fumble Yamar Washington had in the third quarter at the end of a 20-yard gain inside the Wisconsin 20. Indiana appeared ready to go in and score and close the margin to 34-24 before Washington's miscue. It wasn't a big hit that forced the turnover, either. Fumbles have plagued the hard-charging yet turnover-prone Washington during his career, and it happened again Saturday at a critical time.
Notable Stat: Indiana averaged 3.8 yards/rush, more than a yard better than Wisconsin's 2.7/carry.
Passing offense – C-
After taking steps forward in each of his first three games as a starter, Blake Powers took a step backward in IU's 41-24 loss at Wisconsin. While he did throw for 244 yards and three touchdowns, he had a pair of interceptions and a costly third-quarter fumble, accounting for three of IU's season-high four turnovers. Powers also was consistently overthrowing his receivers downfield, and started slowly in a game IU needed to get off to a good start. He was off target on nine of his first ten throws Saturday and just 6-of-19 in the first half. To his credit he came back and was 14-of-22 in the second half. But Indiana's offensive success relies more on Powers being efficient than on the sheer numbers. All of the blame, though, doesn't go to Powers. It often appeared IU's receivers had a tough time getting off the line of scrimmage against the Badger corners, which likely hurt Powers' timing. Indiana was also without Jahkeen Gilmore – IU's most physical wide receiver - who was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Notable Stat: James Hardy had his third 100-yard receiving game, catching seven passes for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This marked the fourth straight game Hardy has found the end zone, making him the first Hoosier wide receiver to accomplish that feat since Ernie Jones did it in 1987.
Rushing defense – A-
It's not too often that a unit allows an opposing tailback to run for 100 yards yet still deserves an "excellent" rating, but that's the case with the job Indiana did on Brian Calhoun and the Badger ground game. Calhoun ran for 101 on 26 carries, but he never hit the Hoosiers with the sort of big play he's capable of. In addition, the defense limited the Badgers to 103 on the ground overall, less than half of UW's average of 239.5/game entering the contest. Much of the credit goes to a defensive line and group of linebackers that more than held its own against the Badger front five. Indiana's front seven matched UW's physical play all afternoon, and consistently got in the Badger backfield. Indiana finished with 14 tackles for loss, and it set the tone early – Wisconsin rushed the ball four times on its opening drive, and IU stopped three of those carries behind the line of scrimmage. It's obvious IU was committed to slowing down the Badger ground game, often having eight men in the box and often blitzing to try to disrupt things in the backfield. At least in that regard, it was mission accomplished.
Notable Stat: Wisconsin saw its rushing average drop to 212.0 yards/game and its national ranking fall from No. 14 to No. 19…Wisconsin managed only five first downs via the ground game on Saturday. In its first four games, the Badgers averaged more 15.3 first downs/game via the ground game.
Passing defense – D
Terry Hoeppner knew he was asking a lot of cornerbacks Tracy Porter, Leslie Majors and Chris Phillips when he made stopping the Badger rushing attack priority No. 1. But the results from IU's corners was less than stellar Saturday. Wisconsin wideouts Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr had their way with the duo, each going over 100 yards. Orr burned the IU secondary on the same play twice, getting behind Majors twice deep downfield for a pair of 47-yard gains. Williams, meanwhile, was given plenty of cushion by IU's corners and took advantage, catching all six of his passes for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half. Phillips was pressed into duty due to the season-ending injury to Buster Larkins and some nicks and bruises to both Porter and Majors Saturday, and didn't fare any better – he was flagged for a blatant hold on Orr in the second quarter when the Badger wideout had gotten behind the sophomore corner. Porter did have one of IU's two interceptions Saturday, but his 32-yard return looked like it could have gone the distance, but he was unable to elude UW quarterback John Stocco who made the stop at the UW 25. IU's drive ended two plays later when Washington fumbled.
Notable Stat: Wisconsin ended a streak of 18 straight games without a 100-yard receiver. Former Badger and current Buffalo Bill Lee Evans was the last to do it, going for 258 yards on Nov. 15, 2003, against Michigan State…this also marked the first time since 1993 that a Wisconsin team had two receivers go over 100 yards receiving in a game.
Special teams – D+
Indiana needed to avoid giving up a big play on special teams, and it didn't. Brandon Williams' 63-yard punt return for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter put the Badgers up 17-7 and put the Hoosiers in a hole they wouldn't recover from. The Hoosiers' return teams, meanwhile, had a couple of very costly holding calls in the third quarter that put IU in deep holes – a Chris Phillips' holding call on a punt return pinned IU at its own 8 on the half's second drive, and a Matt O'Neal holding call on a kickoff return forced the Hoosiers to start their third drive on the third quarter at their own 6. Those miscues certainly didn't help IU in its upset bid. Perhaps the biggest special teams' positive was the 34-yard field goal by Joe Kleinsmith at the conclusion of the first half that cut the Wisconsin lead to 31-17. For a kicker who needed to build some confidence in himself as well as his coaching staff, the boot at the half's game clock expired will undoubtedly pay dividends when he faces another big kick later this season.
Overall – C+
While the end result – a 41-24 loss – wasn't what the coaching staff or the players were hoping for, there were some positives that came out of IU's first loss of the season. From a physical standpoint, Indiana matched what Wisconsin dished out. Defensively, IU was able to contain the Badger ground game and forced the Badgers to beat them through the air. Finally, Indiana didn't quit when there were plenty of opportunities to do so, instead battling for four quarters in a hostile environment. Afterwards, those Hoosier players who spoke to the media were steadfast in their belief that this game was another positive step, and I'd tend to agree. The result showed there's obviously plenty to work on, but a lot to build on as well.
Wisconsin Report Card
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