Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 10/28/12
Nothing comes easily for this Wisconsin football team, does it? Just when it appears the Badgers have turned around their season for the better, a game like Saturday comes along and smacks them in the face. Wisconsin lost starting quarterback Joel Stave to an injury, and the offense couldn't recover in a 16-13 overtime loss to Michigan State at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin dropped to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play but still controls its destiny in the Leaders Division. Handing out grades for Wisconsin's ninth game of the season: Passing offense: C It wasn't the worst game in the history of quarterbacking, but it certainly wasn't good from Wisconsin, either. When Badgers starting quarterback Joel Stave went down with an injury early in the third quarter, the team's offense reverted to its early-season form. While Stave was in the game, Wisconsin gained 147 yards of total offense. After he left, the mark was just 43 yards. Stave finished the game 9 of 11 for 127 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He had moved the ball effectively, even against Michigan State's stout defense. When backup Danny O'Brien entered the game, he struggled to find much of a rhythm. O'Brien finished the game 5 of 11 for 44 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Madison television station WKOW reported Saturday night that Stave had broken his collarbone and would be out for the season. If that's the case, then this team now belongs to O'Brien. We'll see if he can earn the same type of praise he garnered during the offseason after transferring from Maryland to Wisconsin in the spring. Rushing offense: D-minus The only reason Wisconsin doesn't get an F in this category is because at least the Badgers didn't turn the ball over. That's about all you can say positively about the running game. As a team, Wisconsin carried the ball 37 times for a net yardage of 19. Joel Stave and Danny O'Brien were sacked a combined total of five times, so that certainly didn't help the overall yardage. Neither did a 15-yard loss when center Travis Frederick snapped the ball over running back James White's head while the team was in its version of the "wildcat" formation. Even without those negative-yardage plays, the running game wasn't good. Badgers running back Montee Ball gained just 46 yards on 22 carries. White had 16 yards on seven carries. We all knew Michigan State's defense would be tough. But we expected more from Wisconsin's run game. Over the previous two contests against Purdue and Minnesota, the team gained 804 yards on the ground. Passing defense: C Wisconsin gets an average grade in this category because the Badgers broke apart at the end of the game. The first 54 minutes or so were actually quite good. But what people will remember are Michigan State's two touchdown drives -- one on the final possession of regulation and one on the first possession of overtime. Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell finished the game 24 of 39 for 216 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He led a 12-play, 75-yard drive in less than five minutes that helped Michigan State tie the game at 10-10 with a minute remaining in regulation. Maxwell hit running back Le'Veon Bell for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Then in overtime, Maxwell connected with receiver Bennie Fowler on a back-shoulder throw that beat cornerback Darius Hillary for the game winner. For almost four quarters, Maxwell looked pedestrian. But the Badgers let him off the hook and are now suffering the consequences. Rushing defense: A Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell is not an easy man to bring down. In nine games, he has amassed 1,061 yards with eight touchdowns and is averaging 117.9 yards rushing per game. Wisconsin's defense kept him in check, never allowing him to run for more than a 9-yard gain. Bell finished the game with 21 carries for 77 yards -- an average of 3.7 yards per attempt. For the game, Michigan State finished with 28 carries for a net yardage of 61. Wisconsin now ranks 18th in the country in rushing defense, allowing 108.1 yards per game. For all the things that went wrong for Wisconsin on Saturday, the run defense wasn't one of them. Special teams: B Wisconsin experienced mixed results in the special teams department against Michigan State, so let's start with the bad. During the second quarter, Badgers punter Drew Meyer bobbled a low snap and found himself scrambling for his life backed up in his own territory. He tried to get the punt off, but it was blocked by Michigan State's Marcus Rush. Isaiah Lewis recovered the ball at the Wisconsin 12-yard-line. The play could have been a devastating blow to Wisconsin, but the Badgers' defense somewhat miraculously managed to hold the Spartans without any points. Remember, a blocked punt during last year's game at Michigan State resulted in a Spartans touchdown -- in a game Wisconsin lost by six points. The good news to come from Wisconsin's special teams on Saturday came in the form of kicker Kyle French. French has experienced his struggles with field goals and kickoffs during the season, but he came through when it mattered against Michigan State. He drilled a 39-yard field goal to give Wisconsin a 10-3 lead with 6:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. He also made a 43-yard field goal in overtime to push the Badgers in front 13-10. Overall: C Michigan State makes a lot of teams look bad because of how well the defense plays. And Wisconsin wasn't helped by quarterback Joel Stave's third-quarter injury. But even against a tough Michigan State defense, the Badgers should be able to gain more than 190 yards of total offense. Wisconsin's defense found itself in position to seal a victory at the end of the game and couldn't come through. That's pretty disheartening for a team that had so much momentum heading into the final few weeks of Big Ten play. Now, the Badgers have a bye week to regroup and prepare for Indiana. Win that game, and the Leaders Division championship is all but assured for Wisconsin. Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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