Confusion on Wisconsin sideline in the final quarter illustrates how the Badgers were not good enough to defeat Minnesota

Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz throws a pass during the second quarter Saturday against Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS – The apparent miscommunication and confusion on the Wisconsin sideline was mystifying.

UW faced a 23-13 deficit with 4 ½ minutes left in the game Saturday against rival Minnesota when Graham Mertz scrambled for 4 yards to his 21.

More:UW vs. Minnesota: Awards, inside the huddle and by the numbers

More:The Badgers worked hard to win seven consecutive games but loss to Minnesota rendered that winning streak moot

That set up fourth and 1. UW’s punt unit inexplicably came onto the field.

Were the Badgers really going to punt, down by 10 points?

Yes.

Curiously, the offensive unit stayed on the field after Mertz was stopped short. It appeared the players expected to go for the first down.

Head coach Paul Chryst had a brief exchange with special teams coach Chris Haering on the sideline and shortly after that the punt unit came onto the field.

UW lined up to punt but a false-start penalty on John Chenal moved the ball back to the 16 and set up fourth and 6.

Then another surprise.

The punt unit returned to the sideline and the offense came back onto the field.

What?

Mertz then hit tight end Jake Ferguson for 11 yards and a first down at the 27 to give the Badgers a reprieve. That lasted just four plays, however. Mertz threw an incompletion on fourth and 4 and the Gophers took over at the UW 33 with 3:21 left.

The gaffe didn't change the outcome of the game but Chryst was asked about the issue afterward.  

“Never should have been thinking punt,” Chryst said. “And then tried to call timeout…didn’t handle it well.”

Obviously.

Chryst was asked if the punting unit is sent out by Haering.

He acknowledged that is standard protocol but added:

“Everything goes through me. So, it was a mistake by me.”