Jonathan Taylor touchdown run vs Nebraska, State Journal photo

Wisconsin Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor runs for an 88-yard touchdown in the Badgers' 41-24 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday Oct. 6, 2018.

Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates grades the Wisconsin Badgers' performance in their 41-24 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. 

Offense: B

Jonathan Taylor finally broke a long touchdown run, an 88-yard combination of power and speed that sealed the verdict in the fourth quarter. Alex Hornibrook was off-target early, especially when he was forced to move in the pocket. There isn't much Garrett Groshek can't do as a third-down back. Can't fumble, though.

Defense: C-minus

The short-handed secondary kept everything in front of it in the first half but repeatedly allowed receivers to get open deep in the second. UW finally made a big play as Tyler Johnson forced a fumble and Olive Sagapolu recovered it. T.J. Edwards was UW's best pass rusher with two sacks. Zack Baun is showing up more.

Special teams: B

Aaron Cruickshank's 34-yard kickoff return would have gone for 98 had he not been tripped up by the last man with a shot at him. Anthony Lotti failed to execute an Aussie-style punt from the 35, resulting in a touchback. Net gain: Only 15 yards. Jack Dunn caught a low, short punt in stride and returned it 15 yards.

Coaching: C-plus

Another game, another slow start for UW's offense. It happens too often to be a coincidence. T.J. Edwards had two free runs at the quarterback on blitzes, a sign of a good play call and scheme. Even on fourth-and-8, why punt from the 35? The decision looks worse when the punter boots it into the end zone.

Overall: B

UW was supposed to win and it did. UW was supposed to dominate and it didn't. That marks the fifth straight game that UW has failed to match its lofty preseason expectations. Were those expectations too high? We'll find out soon because four of the Badgers' next six Big Ten Conference games are on the road.


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Tom Oates has been part of the Wisconsin State Journal sports department since 1980 and became its editorial voice in 1996, traversing the state and country to bring readers a Madison perspective on the biggest sports stories of the day.