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Wisconsin won this game in the trenches

PROVO — Big Ten football came to Provo Saturday and after an afternoon of bloodying up BYU, the Cougars have not officially shifted into a different portion of their season.

As expected, No. 10 Wisconsin’s offensive and defensive lines dominated en route to a 40-6 win over the struggling Cougars, who trotted out quarterback Beau Hoge and running back Ula Tolutau for their first career starts.

“We were overwhelmed in a lot of areas,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “I was disappointed.”

Wisconsin was impressive. The Badgers' offensive line gave Alex Hornibrook plenty of time to pass and running back Jonathan Taylor a tunnel to run through. BYU had no answer on defense. Offensively, the Cougars showed signs of scoring more but the agenda remains: there is a lot of work to do.

Hornibrook completed an impressive 18 of 19 passes for 254 yards and four TDs. Taylor gained 128 yards on 18 carries. When he threw an incompletion, it was news. Wisconsin gained more than 7 yards per play and possessed the ball twice as long: 40 to 19 minutes.

This was Big Ten blocking. Wisconsin locked up BYU linemen, unleashed full-tilt slant runs, and mixed in precision Hornibrook passes. This is a Badgers team that could be in the college playoffs.

For the Cougars, the Wisconsin loss ended three straight games of great opportunities against ranked teams. As expected, this BYU team came up short. Now comes a week off to heal, self-scout, continue to fix and fine-tune and go on to Logan Sept. 29 to meet Utah State, a 46-10 victim at Wake Forest.

BYU goes forward with a younger offense that it started with the opener against Portland State and even the Utah game. Hoge had his moments in his debut, Some were even good.

This independent, front-loaded BYU schedule is attractive. But for this squad, it was a brutal way to navigate and establish confidence with new backs and receivers.

Now the Hoge era has begun.

This was the first trip to Provo and LaVell Edwards Stadium for Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who told me at halftime he’d have to reconsider if the Badgers would renew their series with the Cougars.

He’d welcomed 800 Wisconsin alumni to this game and joined a party of 10 at Sundance Friday night. “I was very impressed,” said the former Badger football coach.

What Wisconsin showed is how far BYU needs to go in recruiting in elevating line play.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been in this stadium,” said Alvarez. “I knew LaVell Edwards, but never got here. This is a great setting for a game, great crowd that loves their football. I’m impressed.”

Alvarez, one of the power broker athletic directors among the Power Five conferences, left Provo with more information on what BYU is all about. Unfortunately, he caught BYU struggling big-time.

“There is no reason why we can’t play again. We’ve had a great series. They’re good people, they (BYU) has the same philosophy we do in that they don’t compromise academics for their athletes so there is no reason we can’t do something in the future.”

As impressive as Wisconsin was Saturday, Alvarez said his team is looking forward to a bye week.

“Both starting guards are out and hurt and another is beat up. I’m impressed with the way they blocked because I watched some film of BYU and I was very impressed with how physical their (defensive) front was.

“I am worried about injuries and hope we can get out of here after the game without any more injuries so we can rest up for Big Ten play.”

BYU?

There were signs of improvement, even with Hoge and Tolutau’s inexperience. Micah Simon (three catches, 60 yards) showed he needs more targets. Talon Shumway (four catches, 29 yards) and Matt Bushman converted back-to-back third downs. Running the wildcat formation with Austin Kafentzis was creative. Tolutau gained 58 yards on 13 carries.

Sitake said Wisconsin put on a clinic of how BYU wants to run a pro-style offense.

“They put pressure on our defense with the run and pass, possessed the ball. That’s what we want. We want to be as good as these great teams.”

Sitake said, “We’ve got to find a way to win games.”

He did not like two interceptions and a fumble out of his new QB that killed opportunities and momentum. He was disappointed Wisconsin’s receivers beat his corners and BYU’s front couldn’t put pressure on Hornibrook.

“The bye week comes at a good time,” Sitake said.

Indeed.