BYU vs. Wisconsin: Stats Don’t Tell the Story

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Looking over the box score, one might think that Saturday’s game between BYU and Wisconsin was close. But the stats don’t tell the story of the game in which the Badgers man-handled the Cougars on both sides of the ball.

In almost every aspect of the game, the Cougars kept up with the Badgers in Madison…statistically. Wisconsin managed 425 yard of total offense, and BYU was only slightly behind with 370 total yards. BYU posted 20 first downs to Wisconsin’s 21, and BYU went 7-19 (37%) on third down conversions while Wisconsin went 7-17 (41%). In fact, BYU actually outperformed Wisconsin in passing yards (207 to 196) and won the turnover battle (1 to 2).

Even the score made the game look close, with only a 10-point margin of victory for the Badgers.

But don’t be fooled. Everyone who watched the game knew that BYU was never really in this game.

The opening drives for both teams set the tone for the entire game. Wisconsin got the ball first and executed a 76 yard drive that ate 4:40 off the clock and ended in a touchdown. During that drive, Wisconsin’s offensive line dominated BYU’s front 7, opening giant holes for their skilled running backs and giving Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave all day to throw. When the Cougars took over, they quickly (in 57 seconds) went three-and-out, gaining only 1 yard and giving up a sack to stand-out Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland.

And that’s how most of the game went. The Wisconsin offensive line had their way with the BYU defense, giving up only one sack and allowing the Wisconsin running back corp to do whatever they pleased. Even when BYU blitzed, they never seemed able to get past the wall the Wisconsin line put up.  As a result, Wisconsin marched down the field at will throughout most of the game and ate up the clock.

As soon as Wisconsin scored with two minutes to play in the first half to make it a two-score game, even the biggest blue kool aid drinker watching knew that BYU was out of the game. The offense couldn’t move the ball and the defense was being pounded up and down the field.

For BYU fans, the silver lining is that anyone who didn’t tune in to the game might think the Cougars hung with the Badgers Saturday afternoon.

They didn’t.

About the author

Andy Kartchner

I have a Ph.D. in sports analytics. No I don't. But I do have a law degree. And if there's one thing I learned in law school, it's how to write about sports.

I am Big Bro. My brother, Aaron (a.k.a. Little Bro), and I make up the Sports Bros, your one-stop shop for everything BYU sports.