A.J. Taylor - UW vs. Michigan

Wisconsin wide receiver A.J. Taylor is knocked out of bounds short of the end zone in the second quarter of the Badgers' 35-14 win over the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. 

Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates grades the 13th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers' performance in their 35-14 win over the 11th-ranked Michigan Wolverines in their Big Ten Conference opener Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.

Offense: A-minus

The only thing that stopped Jonathan Taylor all day was leg cramps. His 72-yard touchdown run could turn out to be a Heisman Trophy moment. Jack Coan's running ability adds a dimension UW never had with Alex Hornibrook. The return of right tackle Logan Bruss solidified the line, which had its best game of the season.

Defense: A-minus

UW ran its season-opening shutout streak to 10 quarters before Michigan scored late in the third. Holding Michigan under 300 yards and forcing four turnovers is a winning formula. Faion Hicks' hustle saved a touchdown, then Reggie Pearson forced a fumble. Eric Burrell had a fumble recovery and a tipped-ball interception.

Special teams: B

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Ronnie Bell's fair-catch call fooled the gunners on UW's first punt, resulting in a touchback. Michigan punter Will Hart has a big leg, but Jack Dunn's solid returns got some of those yards back. Collin Larsh missed a 48-yard field goal off the right upright. He's 1-for-4 this season. Zach Hintze was 6-for-6 on touchbacks.

Coaching: A

Which was better, Paul Chryst's play-calling or his gambling? Chryst set the tone early, opting to take the ball at the start and going for it on fourth-and-1 at the UW 34 on the opening drive. UW was 3-for-3 on fourth down. Only Chryst could devise an offensive set with seven linemen and two tight ends. It worked, too.

Overall: A-minus

Michigan opened the year as a national championship contender while UW barely slipped into the top 25 preseason poll, but their Big Ten Conference opener turned into a mismatch. The Badgers were better coached, more motivated and played faster than the Wolverines. That's something you don't hear very often.


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Contact Tom Oates at toates@madison.com