Behind the Numbers of Wisconsin’s 35-14 Win Over Michigan

In a game that didn’t just shake up, but potentially tore down, the Big Ten’s perceived power structure for the 2019 college football season, No. 13 Wisconsin throttled No. 11 Michigan 35-14 in a game that probably wasn’t even as close as the final score might indicate.

The Badgers extended their shutout streak to 10 straight quarters to open the season, keeping the Wolverines out of the end zone until there was 2:08 left in the third quarter.

Here’s a behind-the-numbers look at Wisconsin’s win.

76 percent run plays

The Badgers received the opening kickoff and they didn’t attempt a pass until the eighth play of their opening drive, which went 75 yards in 12 plays before ending with a one-yard touchdown run from running back Jonathan Taylor.

Wisconsin ran the ball 54 times compared to 17 pass attempts, not including the team’s game-ending kneel downs, so 76 percent of its offensive snaps were run plays. That’s not particularly surprising given Wisconsin’s history of developing offensive linemen, producing elite running backs and the Badgers playing with the lead for almost the entire game.

31 attempts, 169 rushing yards, 5.45 yards per carry

Those are Wisconsin’s rushing numbers when a player other than all-world running back Jonathan Taylor carried the ball.

For the record, Taylor, who briefly exited the game to go to the medical tent, had another incredible performance. He finished with 23 attempts for 203 yards, 8.83 yards per carry, nine first downs, two touchdowns, a 52.2 percent first down/touchdown rate and five runs of at least 10 yards.

While Taylor’s primary backup, Nakia Watson, was held in check with just 31 yards on 13 carries, the Badgers were able to piece together enough first down runs and explosive plays on the ground to keep the pressure on Michigan while Taylor was sidelined and to keep Taylor from needing 30-plus carries.

Taylor was 4-for-5 on third down conversions on the ground, while the rest of the team was just 1-for-7 combined, but the non-Taylor Badgers combined for four rushes of at least 10 yards, while Taylor had five.

Here’s the complete rushing breakdown for Wisconsin. We didn’t count sack yardage in this analysis.

Player Att. Yards YPC First Down/TD First Down/TD%
RB Jonathan Taylor 23 203 8.83 11 47.8%
RB Nakia Watson 13 31 2.38 0 0.0%
QB Jack Coan 6 23 3.83 2 33.3%
RB Garrett Groshek 4 40 10.00 2 50.0%
RB Bradrick Shaw 3 53 17.67 2 66.7%
FB John Chenal 2 5 2.50 1 50.0%
WR A.J. Taylor 1 11 11.00 1 100.0%
RB Brady Schipper 1 4 4.00 0 0.0%
FB Mason Stokke 1 2 2.00 1 100.0%
TOTAL 54 372 6.89 20 37.0%
Non-Jonathan Taylor 31 169 5.45 9 29.0%


23.5 percent of Michigan’s runs resulted in no gain or a loss

Perhaps no stat better sums up the contrast in rushing success between Wisconsin and Michigan than the following: Four Badgers individually rushed for at least as many combined first downs/touchdowns as the Wolverines had collectively all afternoon, and four other Wisconsin players were only one away from matching Michigan’s total.

Michigan had just two rushes for a first down/touchdown all day, while Jonathan Taylor had 11, and Jack Coan, Garrett Groshek and Bradrick Shaw had two apiece.

The Wolverines had a first down/touchdown rate of just 11.8 percent, while Wisconsin’s rate was 37 percent. Taylor had an impressive 47.8 percent first down/touchdown rate as 11 of his 23 attempts resulted in him moving the chains or reaching the end zone.

On the other sideline, Michigan didn’t have a single run longer than nine yards.

Here’s the Wolverines’ complete rushing breakdown.

Once again, this doesn’t include sack yards but it includes a play in which Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson threw a lateral to lineman Jon Runyan as Patterson was being tackled, which resulted in a fumble that Michigan recovered for a loss of nine yards.

Player Att. Yards YPC First Down/TD First Down/TD%
RB Christian Turner 6 17 2.83 0 0.0%
QB Dylan McCaffrey 3 21 7.00 2 66.7%
RB Zach Charbonnet 2 6 3.00 0 0.0%
QB Joe Milton 2 6 3.00 0 0.0%
QB Shea Patterson 1 4 4.00 0 0.0%
FB Ben Mason 1 3 3.00 0 0.0%
RB Hassan Haskins 1 -3 -3.00 0 0.0%
OL Jon Runyan 1 -9 -9.00 0 0.0%
TOTAL 17 45 2.65 2 11.8%


Four of Michigan’s 17 rushing attempts resulted in no gain or a loss of yards, which translates to 23.5 percent of its carries. Wisconsin only had one more run for zero/negative yards despite running the ball 37 more times.

Only 9.3 percent of Wisconsin’s carries (five out of 54) resulted in no gain or a loss of yards.

One pass attempt on third down

There’s a lot of stats that you can find in the post-game box score, or through an in-depth analysis like the one we conducted, that defined just how dominant Wisconsin was in Week 4.

But this might be the best one: Wisconsin attempted just one pass on third down all afternoon.

Just think about that.

That tells us a few things:

  • Wisconsin frequently forced 3rd & short – situations in which the Badgers were confident they could pick up the first down by running behind their physical offensive line
  • The Badgers didn’t face third down too often because of their ability to move the chains or score on first and second down
  • They were willing to go for it on fourth down so even if a run on third down fell short of a first down or the end zone, they potentially had one more down to work with on offense


Here are some stats that back up the points above.

Here’s a breakdown of what distances Wisconsin faced on third down against Michigan.

Down and Distance Number of Times Wisconsin Faced Situation
3rd & Goal 2
3rd & 1 1
3rd & 2 3
3rd & 3 2
3rd & 4 1
3rd & 5 1
3rd & 6 0
3rd & 7 0
3rd & 8 0
3rd & 9 1
3rd & 10 2


Wisconsin had great success in early downs, which prevented the Badgers from needing to air it out on third down. A third of their plays on first down resulted in another first down or a touchdown.

Wisconsin had an even higher first down/touchdown rate on second down – 40.9 percent.

Down Number of Plays on Down Number of First Downs/Touchdowns Percent
1st 33 11 33.3%
2nd 22 9 40.9%


Wisconsin was 3-for-3 on fourth down conversions as Jonathan Taylor ran for three yards on 4th & 1 at Wisconsin’s 34-yard line on the Badgers’ opening drive, then Jack Coan connected with Quintez Cephus for 26 yards on 4th & 3 from Michigan’s 42-yard line and Coan scored on a quarterback keeper on 4th & Goal later on the same drive.

Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst was aggressive on fourth down and it paid off, leading to 14 points, and those decisions gave the Badgers an extra down even if they couldn’t convert on a third-down run.

Meanwhile, Michigan faced an average of 8.5 yards to go on third down (compared to Wisconsin’s 4.6 yards) and the Wolverines passed on eight of their 11 third down plays.

Michigan was 0-for-8 on third down conversions in which it dialed up a passing play. Only one of those eight plays resulted in a completion and it was a one-yard loss.

The Wolverines’ quarterbacks finished a combined 17-of-42 passing for 259 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

MORE: Michigan Spent $1.39M on Recruiting in ’18 While Wisconsin Spent Just $350k