The swirling snow and stiff wind might have affected a lot of football teams, perhaps added an extra layer of defense against the passing game. But some of the Badgers had been preparing for Saturday’s snow globe for … well, since grade school.
“Whenever we had a snow day growing up, we’d play [football],” Wisconsin tight end Garrett Groshek said after the Badgers’ 38-17 victory at TCF Bank Stadium. “So today was nothing for me.”
His contribution was a lot more than nothing. With Wisconsin backed up in their own end trying to maintain their two-score lead, Groshek caught a screen pass on the right side from Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan, settled in behind a wall of blockers, and hustled upfield for 70 yards, finally being brought down at the Minnesota 11. Jonathan Taylor scored a few moments later, and the Gophers’ day was essentially finished.
“They ran the wrong defense for that play. When we came out, me and the [offensive] line knew that play would have a chance to go,” Groshek said. “And then those [blockers] downfield, making it more than what it was. We were just trying to get the first [down], and it turned into a lot more.”
So did the Badgers’ passing game, far less heralded than their ability to run the ball. For the first time since 2003, Minnesota held the Badgers without a 100-yard rusher. But even in the wintry weather, Wisconsin simply shifted gears and turned to Coan to ramp up the passing game. The junior quarterback showed no sign of noticing the precipitation.
“I don’t think it [bothered] us,” Coan said. “I felt like I had a good grip on the ball all game.”
He certainly had a grip on the Gophers defense. Late in the second quarter with the ball on Minnesota’s 28, Coan read a safety blitz headed his way and, realizing that Taylor would be defended by a linebacker, threw a perfect pass that the running back came down with at the 6, with his back to the end zone. Taylor backpedaled as Carter Coughlin tried to drag him down, and reached the end zone for Wisconsin’s first touchdown.
In the third quarter, Coan spotted receiver Quintez Cephus breaking open on a seam up the middle, and lofted a pass just over his head. Cephus lunged for it, caught it by the fingertips and delivered a beauty of a 47-yard touchdown pass.
“It felt good coming out of my hand,” Coan said. “And whenever you’re throwing the ball to Q, you know he’s going to have a good chance to come down with it.”
And when it came time to put the game out of reach, Coan and Groshek delivered on the game’s biggest play, the screen pass that sent Gophers fans to the exits.
In all, despite the conditions, the Badgers threw for 280 yards, almost 100 more than their average.
“The Long Island laser came to play today,” Groshek said of his New York-born quarterback, who completed 15 of 22 passes. “Jack was Jack, he was consistent. That’s what anyone should expect from him because that’s what he expects from himself.”