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Wisconsin Football vs. Washington State Analytics Recap



Wisconsin football; Badgers QB Tanner Mordecai
Sep 9, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) is tackled from behind by Washington State Cougars defensive end Andrew Edson (95) in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Washington State won 31-22. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

There’s not much to say about Wisconsin football and their week 2 performance vs. Washington State. They didn’t do enough to get the job done, with strikingly poor performances in two key areas in the first half.

First, the O-Line protection and, more specifically, the protection from the LT spot led to 2 strip-sacks. One didn’t hurt us, but the other led to a TD. Ultimately, the killer obviously is it took away OUR ability to score the football on two possessions.

The second area was the defense, which seemed completely out of sorts dealing with Washington State’s up-tempo offense. That discombobulation manifested in two areas. One was a complete lack of pressure early on. The second was through blown coverages on the back end due to seemingly miscommunication?!? It had to be because in the second half, we cleaned that up for all but one drive. It happened that drive was the final nail in the coffin for UW.

Offensively, we struggled to run the ball. With 3.1 YPA and -0.02 EPA/Play, to put that in reference, against Buffalo that was 8.0 YPA and 0.35 EPA/Play. I’m interested to see how Washington State defended UW from a Men-In-Box perspective, but it seemed to me they were loading it pretty heavily based on our personnel. I’ll dive deeper into that when that data is live until now, we can only assume. But given how successful the PA/RPO Passing game was, I think it shows WSU’s game plan was to get beat through the air!

Talking playcalling, let’s dive into the analytics…

Play Call Distribution (All Game):

Wisconsin Football Analytics

We can see that our PA/RPO game wasn’t extremely pronounced all game. But once you split these by half, it really shows how much we left on the table in the first half of this ball game. At least from an offensive standpoint.


Wisconsin Football Analytics
Wisconsin Football Analytics
Wisconsin Football Analytics

Now, on first down, it looks as though the PA/RPO game wasn’t that successful on an EPA/Play basis. But when you look at how successful it was on 2nd & 3rd down, it really shows how impactful it can be when your opponent is trying to take away the rushing attack.

But how much of a difference was there in the PA/RPO game from half to half?

Wisconsin Football 1st Half Play-Call Distribution & EPA:

Wisconsin Football Analytics

Well, in the 1st Half, there were no PA/RPO passes on 1st down. On 2nd down, there was a slight increase to ~9% of play-calls featuring PA/RPO. With that number increasing to 13% on 3rd down!

What’s fascinating is that our EPA/Play on PA/RPO passes was far and away our most successful play type! But I can see why Phil Longo wasn’t going to it as much on 1st down. We were pretty successful on 1st down running the football and passing on Straight DBs to pass.

So what did it look like in the second half when the offense seemed to be clicking much more?

Wisconsin Football 2nd Half Play-Call Distribution & EPA:

We see a massive increase in PA/RPO, in particular, that increase came on 1st Down. We also saw a strong uptick in PA/RPO passes on 2nd Down, but that was coupled with a significant increase in running plays. On 3rd Down, we saw an elimination of the running game and the same % of PA/RPO passes!

But how did that play out from an EPA/Play perspective?:


The influx of PA/RPO didn’t really show too much fruit on 1st down from an EPA/Play perspective. At least not in a way that really jumps out at you like the success of PA/RPO had on 2nd & 3rd down in the 1st Half. It’s also much more difficult to “maximize” EPA on 1st down unless you’re picking up 1st downs or really big chunk yardages. So we really saw the fruit of the PA/RPO game have a lot of success was on 2nd & 3rd down again with EPA/Play of 0.89 & 1.40 respectively!

In total, across all downs, Wisconsin football made its hay by utilizing the PA/RPO passing game.

Overall, they increased their usage of the play type by 5% game over game from 24% to 29%. But as you can see, that may need to increase even more, especially since people will watch this film and see they can get us “out of sorts” by stuffing the run. Adding more RPOs and putting the decision whether or not to run or pass into Mordecai’s hands may be the ticket to avoid such slow starts offensively!

Even seeing a little dip in EPA/Play by utilizing the PA/RPO game MORE, our overall EPA gain by using a defense’s overaggressiveness against them will benefit us far more. Longo has talked quite a bit about “balance” and what that means to him. To me, it’s about making sure your play calls are aligned to take advantage of what the defense is giving you.

In the case when the defense is really being aggressive into the box to stop the run and giving 1-1 coverage in the back end. Being “balanced” isn’t running into those boxes or alerting them to the pass with Straight Dropbacks. It’s luring them into that aggressiveness and punishing them for it with an extremely healthy dose of PA/RPO, which, when we saw it, had tremendous success for us!! We should look to see more and more of it this season when teams play us like Washington State did.

Wisconsin Badgers EPA Leaders:

Tanner Mordecai:

I’ll tell you what, if there is ever a silver lining to a loss. I know there isn’t, but let’s pretend there is for a moment. Tanner Mordecai…is legit! He was spectacular, actually, in my opinion. And sure, there are some throws he definitely wants back and should have executed in the 4Q. That, if executed, would have given us an extra push to get the job done potentially. Nevertheless, he was awesome, and when you remove the strip sacks from his EPA numbers, the picture gets better and better:


As you can see, he was especially good in the PA/RPO game too! This again leads me to believe with such a strong rushing attack and teams willing to commit extra guys to the box. Mordecai is going to get a lot of advantage throws to Chimere Dike, Bryson Green, and Will Pauling! He showed last night that he is ABSOLUTELY the guy to be able to take advantage of those situations!

Rushing/Receiving EPA Leaders:

First, let’s take a look at the number of touches/targets by each player!

Braelon Allen & Chez Mellusi still maintain their top spots, but Pauling/Dike/Green/Bell were much bigger parts of this offense.

Some may be thinking, why is Green so low in EPA? Well, that has to do with the fact that on so many of his targets, nothing happened (incompletions), and one of those came on 4th down, so that incompletion disproportionally impacted his EPA.

Let’s look at this without that impact.

Wisconsin football analytics

Taking that out, you can see Dike/Pauling/Bell/Green all were the MAJOR contributors to the Wisconsin offense. You can also see how much Braelon and Chez fared against this Washington State Defense & Gameplan!!!

EPA/Play x Player:

Wisconsin football analytics

So, on a Per_Play basis, you see many of the same trends. You can also see drops by Ashcraft & Anthony were pretty massive in terms of their impact on EPA! On the flip side, you can see the crucial 1st Down Hayden Rucci got in the 3rd Quarter!!!

The bad part is that Mellusi and Allen were the biggest parts of our offense, yet they were also some of the most negatively impacting our EPA/Play. Most of that is how Washington State decided to play us, but Chez and Braelon had opportunities where there was space to make plays, and they didn’t take advantage enough to skew these numbers back in their favor!

Wisconsin Football Defense:

The Wisconsin Defense really struggled in the 1st Half, giving up 17 Offensive Points. And it was really ugly. They were out of sorts getting their communication set. This seemed to cause a complete disappearance of pressure on Cam Ward, who took advantage and lit us up!!! The Second Half was a completely different story; the defense only gave up 7 (although crucial) Offensive Points. The difference seemed to be the Pressure they were able to dial up and how that impacted Cam Ward and the entire Washington State Offensive Attack!

1st Half Pressure vs. 2nd Half:

On Target %’s:
Wisconsin football analytics

Cam Ward’s On-Tgt % dropped precipitously with the increased Pressure UW was able to dial-up. Secondly, and why this was so massive in helping the UW defense as a whole, is that On-Tgt % was on passes much shorter.

Wisconsin football analytics

As you can see, the Air Yards/ATT, dropped from 5.52 AY/ATT to 1.17 AY/ATT. That is a massive difference and allowed UW to force many more 3 & Longs and get the ball back into their Offense’s hands.

Scrambling Cam Ward – Wisconsin Football Killer:

What really killed UW was Cam Ward’s ability to extend plays and get yards downfield. Particularly in situations where he could pick up crucial and back-breaking 1st Downs!

Ward had 70 Yards Rushing on 13 Attempts (5.38 YPA), which was actually right on par with Tanner Mordecai’s Rushing Performance of 43 Yards on 7 Attempts (6.14 YPA). But where he really impacted the game was on 3rd Down. On those downs where Ward used his feet, he added an incremental 3.61 EPA to Washington State!! Those were absolutely KILLER to Wisconsin Football Saturday Night!!!

UW vs. WSU – Run Game:

UW had a 33% Stuff Rate against the Washington State Rushing Attack, which was fantastic! Of the 44 Power 5 v. Power 5 contests through this 2023 CFB Season, that was the 8th-best rate! Although there were still some missed tackles, their Hit-At-Line % gap to their Stuff Rate was much smaller from Week 1. This means that UW was able to create disruption at the point of attack and convert that into TFLs/Zero-Gains. I expect this to continue to get better over the course of this season because it will be needed!

Final Thoughts on Wisconsin Football vs. Washington State:

I only have 3 thoughts on this game, and I’ll leave it at that until I can get my hands on the more in-depth player tracking data that can track Coverages, Men-In-Box, Pressures x Position etc.

      1. That 1st Half was inexcusable!

The Defensive Mistakes and Poor Communication to Combat Up-Tempo from Wazzu was STRIKING! Two Straight Strip Sacks given up by the LT KILLED any opportunity to keep UW within realistic striking distance!

      2. PA/RPO Game will need to be utilized MORE and MORE

We were extremely good in the PA/RPO Game throughout the entire game. But we didn’t utilize it enough (probably); we utilized it significantly more in the 2nd Half. But leaving 3 scoring drives short of TD’s in the first half lost us 12 Points if we could have punched those in for TDs by utilizing more PA/RPO

      3. Our Defense and offense showed what this thing looked like when we clicked on all cylinders in the 2nd Half!

This Wazzu Team is good! Great QB + Stingy D will equal a lot of Wins for Washington State this Season!! It was the mistake-ridden 1st Half that ultimately killed our opportunity to win this game! In that 2nd Half, though, it was a much different story. I’ll say it…We dominated WSU (A T-25 Team) in that Second Half. And if we played another Quarter of Football, I think we win that game. I won’t get into some of the aspects of that game that SAPPED the momentum we had built early in the 4th Quarter. You have to play through those things and still find a way to win. Because they’ll go for you, and in the case of Saturday night, they’ll certainly go against you! You can’t control it, so you have to control the things you can control, and on Saturday night, we didn’t. Ultimately, I’m not even CLOSE to the panic button. From what I saw, this Team is 9-3 | 10-2 | 11-1 capable. They just have to put together 4 Full Quarters of Football. Until that happens, they’re much closer to a 9-3 expectation than 11-1.

I can’t wait for next week and a matchup vs. Georgia Southern where Luke Fickell and the Badgers should be able to put that Full 4-Quarter game together and dominate!!!

On Wisconsin!

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow me on Twitter @GardYourFickell

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Wisconsin Football Week 5 Stock Report: Bye Week Blues



Wisconsin Badgers football
Sep 10, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers logo on a flag prior to the game against the Washington State Cougars at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers football team enters their bye week with a 3-1 overall record. I’m sure many fans hoped and expected the Badgers to be 4-0 heading into the bye, but 3-1 is still a pretty good start. With a victory over Purdue last Friday, the Badgers are already 1/5 of the way to being bowl-eligible, so there’s that too.

Here is the Week 5 BadgerNotes Stock Report.

Wisconsin Football Stock Report: Stock Up

Wisconsin’s Standing in the Big Ten West

We are just getting into conference play and the Wisconsin football team is already at the top of the standings. They are currently the only team in the west division that doesn’t have a conference loss.

The Gophers lost an embarrassing game to the Northwestern Wildcats in overtime after being up 31-10 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.

Nebraska lost to Minnesota in Week 1.

Iowa just got destroyed by Penn State last week, 31-0.

Purdue lost to Wisconsin last week, dropping their conference record to 0-1.

Now, with the Badgers having a bye this week, there’s a situation where the rest of the West will continue to cannibalize and lose games that will give the Wisconsin football team an even larger lead without even playing a game. Right now, the Badgers are sitting pretty well in the division.

Wisconsin Football Stock Report: Stock Down

Bye Weeks

Boo! Bye weeks suck. Having to wait more than two weeks between Wisconsin football games sucks, especially now that their offense started to get rolling. Now there’s a chance the team could lose the rhythm they worked to get into the past few weeks.

On the positive side, if there are any Wisconsin football players who are banged up, this bye week will give them some time to heal up before they play another game.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers football news, notes, opinions, and analysis. You can also follow Christian Borman on Twitter @christianborman.

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Special Teams: The Unsung Heroes of Wisconsin Football



Wisconsin Badgers football punter Atticus Bertrams
Wisconsin punter Atticus Bertrams (49) punts for 42 yds during the second quarter of the game against Buffalo on Saturday September 2, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.

The Wisconsin Badgers football program is headed into the bye week on a high note following a 38-17 win over Purdue. The Badgers had some very apparent struggles throughout the first four games of the season, but there was a lot to like about UW’s performance against the Boilermakers.

It doesn’t get talked about nearly enough, but Wisconsin has had some excellent play from the special teams unit thus far. The excitement around the program was at an all-time high for some of the other phases — and I’m certainly not here to blame anyone for that — but we must give credit where it’s due. Wisconsin has some real promise with its special teams, and they deserve some praise.

Special Teams: The Unsung Heroes of Wisconsin Football

Nathanial Vakos

We need to talk about Nathanial Vakos. The former Ohio transfer has undoubtedly been one of the biggest bright spots for Wisconsin through the first four games of the 2023 season. 

So far, Vakos has nailed all seven field goal attempts and been perfect on extra-point tries. After his performance against Purdue, where he went 3-for-3 on field goal opportunities and hit three extra point attempts, Vakos earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Against Washington State, Vakos also hit all three of his field goal attempts, with his longest coming in at 49 yards, which remains his longest field goal of the season.

Having a kicker of Vakos’ caliber is a blessing that can’t be understated. While he may not get the most attention due to his role on the special teams, he certainly deserves his flowers for how he has fared through the first four weeks of the 2023 season.

Atticus Bertrams

Another player who doesn’t get enough recognition is Atticus Bertrams. The freshman has quietly put together a solid 2023 season thus far. Through four games, the Australia native has punted 16 times for an average of 42.5 yards per punt. On top of that, Bertrams has only had one punt returned. Last week against Purdue, Bertrams had just two punts, but his longest boot came in at 60 yards, his longest of the season. 

Although he is an unheralded member of the special teams, the freshman has been impressive, considering he never punted in a game before the 2023 season. His marks aren’t the most impressive, but there is a solid foundation for the Australian native. 

Wisconsin Football WR/Returner Chimere Dike

Though Vakos has been the most impressive player on the special teams — in my opinion — Chimere Dike has done an excellent job on return opportunities. 

Dike was impressive during his performance against Purdue, logging returns for 39 and 34 yards. With those marks, Dike is now second in the Big Ten on punt returns, with an average of 9.6 yards per return. On top of that, he’s fourth in the conference on kickoff returns, logging an average of 32 yards per return. 

The senior receiver has undoubtedly been one of the biggest bright spots for the Wisconsin football program early in their 2023 campaign. You’d love to see him break off one of his returns for six, and that certainly isn’t out of the question with his skillset. 

The special teams unit has played a big role to start the season, and their contributions will continue to be crucial as the season chugs along. 

As it stands, the Wisconsin Badgers football team is 3-1 heading into the bye week. UW will take on Rutgers on October 7th in Madison as both teams look to improve to 4-1.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here. Also, like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter @JakeJMaier.

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Wisconsin Football Named a Recruiting Finalist for NFL Pro Bowler’s Son



Wisconsin Badgers Football head coach Luke Fickell
Sep 16, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell prior to the game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers football team received some good news on the recruiting front Tuesday evening. The coveted Eugene Hilton Jr., a promising 2025 wide receiver hailing from Zionsville, Indiana, made a significant move by narrowing his list of potential schools to six, and the Badgers proudly found their place among them.

As Hilton Jr. looks ahead to his collegiate journey, he’ll weigh his options between a few notable programs. The final six schools in his consideration are Ole Miss, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida International University (FIU), Miami, and our very own University of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Football Recruiting Still in the Mix for Son of an NFL Pro Bowler

According to the industry-generated composite recruiting rankings, Eugene Hilton Jr. is the No. 393 player in the 2025 cycle, the No. 55 WR, and the No. 4 recruit to hail from Indiana.

Currently, Hilton is considered a three-star recruit and one of the top 2025 pass-catching prospects in the Midwest — and the Badgers would be happy to add him to a verbal commits list that already includes quarterback Landyn Locke and defensive back Remington Moss.

Now, if the name Hilton sounds a tad familiar to Wisconsin football fans, you’re spot on. This dynamic young talent happens to be the offspring of none other than former NFL pro-bowler T.Y. Hilton. During his illustrious NFL career, the elder Hilton made a name for himself with the Indianapolis Colts and the Dallas Cowboys.

With the Badgers making the cut in Hilton Jr.’s selection process, it’s a testament to the allure and potential of Wisconsin football & its ability to attract new talent because of their air raid offense.

As the recruiting process unfolds, all eyes will be on Eugene Hilton Jr. as he evaluates his options. While the path to securing his commitment may be winding, one thing is clear: Wisconsin Badgers football is very much in the running for the talented young wideout.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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