Well, Wisconsin Badgers fans have seen that one before. Wisconsin once again left Evanston, Illinois with a disheartening loss to the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, In a 17-7 defeat, the Badgers’ postseason hopes took a brutal blow.

As we’ve seen many times with Wisconsin playing at Northwestern, the Badgers simply could not get anything going offensively while the defense did all it could to keep the team within striking distance. Wisconsin has beaten Northwestern in Evanston once since 1999 and is 1-6 on the road against the Wildcats in that stretch.

After blowing out its first two opponents, Illinois and Michigan, by a combined score of 94-18, Wisconsin is 2-1 with three regular-season games to play. The Badgers were expected to be the favorite in the B1G West coming into this game with some hope of a potential College Football Playoff bid, but this loss likely squashes both of those possibilities.

With Northwestern improving to 5-0, the Badgers will need the Wildcats to lose at least two of their final three games to even have a shot. Northwestern has Michigan State and Minnesota on the road as well as Illinois at home to close out the season. Wisconsin will likely be left out of the B1G title game, barring a strange final three weeks of conference play.

With that, let’s check the report card for the Badgers’ loss to Northwestern on Saturday.

Offense: D-

In the game’s final statistics, Wisconsin beat Northwestern in just about every offensive category including total yards, rushing yards, first downs, time of possession, third-down conversions and fourth-down conversions. So why does the unit get a D-minus? Five turnovers. You don’t anything better than a D when you turn the ball over five times.

Graham Mertz set the world on fire with his first start as a college quarterback on Oct. 23 against Illinois, then looked just average against Michigan. And he looked a lot like a freshman against Northwestern. He turned the ball over four times with three interceptions and a fumble. Overall, he completed 23 of 41 passes for 230 yards after completing nine of his first 10 passes.

Wisconsin’s passing game really struggled with injuries as its two starting wide receivers, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor, were inactive. Wide receiver Jack Dunn exited the game but returned, and the team’s leading pass catcher on the day, tight end Jake Ferguson, went on and off the field, dealing with an apparent arm injury. The remaining pass catchers on the field struggled to get open and when they were, Mertz was not accurate.

The one bright spot in this game was freshman running back Jalen Berger, who carried the ball a team-high 15 times for 93 yards. Through three games, he appears to be the runner in Wisconsin’s backfield.

Defense: A

Wisconsin’s defense really did everything it could to make sure this game remained competitive. When your offense turns the ball over five times, it’s hard to limit a team to just 17 points, but that’s what this group did. This game could’ve gotten ugly early. In the first quarter, the Badgers turned the ball over at their own 37-yard line and then again at their own 32. Wisconsin held Northwestern scoreless in both possessions with a missed field goal and a fumble.

After going into halftime trailing 14-7, Wisconsin was about as dominant as a defense can be in a single quarter. The Badgers forced five three-and-outs in the third quarter. Northwestern ran 15 third-quarter plays and finished with just 13 total yards.

Northwestern pretty much stopped running the ball because no matter who carried it, the Wildcats rushing attack could not do anything against the Wisconsin defense. Drake Anderson led Northwestern on the ground with just 13 yards on eight carries and he was the only rusher on the team with more yards than carries. As a team, the Wildcats finished with 23 rush attempts for 24 yards. Northwestern had more success passing, but it’s not like Peyton Ramsey had that good of a game at quarterback. He completed 23 of 44 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

Jack Sanborn had a team-high 14 tackles with a sack and one of Wisconsin’s six tackles for loss.

Prior to the game, Wisconsin announced defensive ends Matt Henningsen and James Thompson Jr. and outside linebacker Izayah Green-May would miss the rest of the season. Badgers’ cornerback Rachad Wildgoose injured his arm in the first half and never returned. That would be a big loss to Wisconsin if he is forced to miss time.

Special Teams: B

I think B will be the go-to grade for a unit that both did nothing good or bad. The Badgers never attempted a field goal and Andy Vujnovich punted seven times for an average of 41.6 yards. The punt return and kick return game was uneventful all game long for Wisconsin.

Dean Engram took over punt returns for Dunn. Engram dropped one of the punts, but it was recovered by Wisconsin. Overall, special teams were a non-factor in this game.

One last note: We don’t grade referees here, but the first half wasn’t their finest effort. However, they may have made some halftime adjustments because I had no issues with their performance in the second half.