Ten takeaways from Wisconsin's embarrassing 23-16 loss to Minnesota




 

In a game that felt like a microcosm of Wisconsin's disappointing regular season as a whole, Minnesota outlasted the Badgers 23-16 to take Paul Bunyan's Axe for the second straight year.

It all ended with one of the most confounding drives of the year as Wisconsin's backup quarterback Chase Wolf led the Badgers down to Minnesota's five-yard line with a chance to tie the game. Four penalties later, Wisconsin was backed up to the Gophers' 30-yard line and had little to no chance to tie things up.

Wisconsin fell to 6-6 in a regular-season finale, and year as a whole, to forget. Here are ten takeaways from a season-defining loss:

Wisconsin's secondary struggled mightily

 

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis (8) rushes with the football as Wisconsin Badgers safety John Torchio (15) defends during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota's backup quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis torched Wisconsin's secondary late as it was the Gophers passing attack that turned the tide. Despite Mo Ibrahim and the running game leading Minnesota all year, Wisconsin's secondary couldn't stop the passing game.

That might be the end of the Graham Mertz era

 

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) looks to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Whether or not Jim Leonhard is the head coach next season, there will almost assuredly be an entirely new offensive staff for Wisconsin. That could have very well been the end of the Mertz era, and it feels like it would be in the best interest of both parties.

Wisconsin's run defense was the only bright spot

 

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers nose tackle Keeanu Benton (95) sacks Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis (8) during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Keeanu Benton played arguably his best game of the season, but beyond him and the run defense, there were little bright spots for Wisconsin on either side of the ball.

Wisconsin finally got creative, then got stagnant

Late in the third quarter, Wisconsin finally did it! They got tricky with a reverse to Chimere Dike and he walked into the end zone to give the Badgers a 16-13 lead. From there, it was more vanilla offense as Wisconsin failed to score on their final five drives of the game.

Athan Kaliakmanis made massive throws

 

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis (8) rushes with the football as Wisconsin Badgers safety John Torchio (15) defends during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The freshman from Illinois deserves a ton of credit despite Wisconsin's secondary struggling to contain Minnesota. Kaliakmanis made a ton of massive throws, finishing 19-29 with 319 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Even more importantly, he took care of the football.

 

Mertz missed some big ones

 

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) looks to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

There were plays there to be made for Mertz and the Wisconsin offense as they had to settle for a number of field goals in the red zone. A notable second-down miss to Jack Eschenbach in the middle of the third quarter loomed large as a four-point swing.

The offense needs a complete overhaul, but we already knew that

 

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) throws a pass during warmups prior to the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

From the coaches to the personnel, this offense needs a complete offseason overhaul no matter who is made the head coach. This isn't a reaction to tonight, but rather the last 12 games as an entire package.

Wisconsin's special teams were actually...decent?

 

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Jim Leonhard looks on during the first quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Did it end up making a difference? Not in the end, but Wisconsin's special teams had one of their better big-game performances in recent memory all the way from the kicking game to key tackles in return coverage.

Let's talk about the end of the game...but what is there to say?

 

Dec 19, 2020; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Chase Wolf (2) runs the ball during the second half in the game with the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Wolf is in the football game after a Mertz injury. He sets up Wisconsin at Minnesota's five-yard line after a pass interference call in the end zone. Then what on earth happened? Here is what happened:

This will be a fascinating week for the future of Wisconsin football

 

Nov 26, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; The Minnesota Golden Gophers celebrate with the Paul Bunyan Axe following the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The program has fallen from their Big Ten West superiority, and this week will tell us a lot about the future. Is Jim Leonhard set to be named the next head coach or will Wisconsin conduct a full search? Time will tell.

Story originally appeared on Badgers Wire

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