Grades Are In: Secondary Locks Down Wisconsin Passing Attack

The Michigan secondary made Alex Hornibrook look like a JB quarterback in the win over Wisconsin.

Defensive Line - 4

Even without Rashan Gary, out for a second game in a row with an injured shoulder, Michigan's line had one of its best pass-rushing days of the season, putting Hornibrook on his heels (or his ass) on 8 of 12 pass attempts in the first 3+ quarters of the contest. The interior received a much-needed jolt with the return of sophomore defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, who hadn't played since Week 1, while juniors Carlo Kemp and Michael Dwumfour were both in action after suffering minor injuries against Maryland. U-M's front four eventually started winning the battle along the line of scrimmage in slowing Wisconsin's potent rushing attack, but it was really their work in the passing game that gave UW trouble.

Season Grade: 4.3.

Linebackers - 4

On the surface, this looks like a ho-hum effort from the linebackers - 14 total tackles, one for loss -- but juniors Devin Bush, Devin Gil and Khaleke Hudson set the tone that they would be the aggressor, constantly coming up to hit the Badgers' offensive linemen in the mouth. By the second half, the linemen were having none of it and weren't as actively seeking out the second-level blocks that neutralize LBs.

Season Grade: 4.0.

Secondary - 5

On the worst day of his career - a 2016 loss to Michigan - Hornibrook posted a 54.8 pass efficiency rating. On Saturday, prior to a fourth-quarter throwaway possession in which the Badger QB was 4 of 8 for 75 yards and a TD, he had a 9.17 pass eff. rating. That's not a typo. As the game was being decided, Hornibrook was 3 of 12 for 25 yards and two picks, one returned for a touchdown. Michigan's secondary made him look silly, with five passes defended among those nine incompletions.

Much credit goes to U-M's front seven, which put considerable pressure on the UW signal-caller but this was a game the secondary took Wisconsin's best weapons - WR AJ Taylor and TE Jake Ferguson -- completely out of the game (one catch for 10 yards on UW's first 11 possessions).

Season Grade: 3.7.

Special Teams - 4

Punter Will Hart's "off" day was a 45.5-yard average, and included a punt dropped inside the 20-yard line, while Quinn Nordin missed a pair, from 41 and 54 yards. He did convert three, but two were ugly, as his ball knuckled throughout the game. Hopefully he cleans up his issues before this weekend's contest at Michigan State. The Wolverines were solid on kickoffs -- the Badgers returned only 3 of 8, for an average of 15.6 yards -- while sophomore Donovan Peoples-Jones added some excitement with a 26-yard punt return for U-M (his second-longest return all year).

Season Grade: 4.6.