Sep 10, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; General view of Camp Randall Stadium during the second quarter of the game between the Washington State Cougars and Wisconsin Badgers. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Badgers PFF Grades: Top 5 Offensive/Defensive Players In Week 2 vs. Washington State

Madison, Wis. – Weather, as they say, is the great equalizer in football. That held true on Saturday when the No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers (1-1) suffered a sloppy, unacceptable home loss against the Washington State Cougars (2-0) at Camp Randall Stadium.

If you were to only look at the box score, you’d probably be happy with what you saw from the offense. However, if you watched the game, it told a very different story.

A look at the Badgers offense

PISCATAWAY, NJ – NOVEMBER 06 : Head coach Paul Chryst of the Wisconsin Badgers talks with quarterback Graham Mertz (5) during a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium on November 6, 2021 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Wisconsin defeated Rutgers 52-3. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Bobby Engram and company produced a balanced offensive attack for the second straight week, recording 401 total yards (227 passing, 174 running) but scoring only 14 points and turning the ball over three times.

At times, third-year starting quarterback Graham Mertz carried the Wisconsin Badgers offense, but his effort simply wasn’t enough to overcome untimely turnovers and sloppy play from all three phases.

Although he was far from perfect, Mertz completed 18-of-31 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Also worth noting is that 10 of his passes went for first downs. The Kansas native appears to have taken a step forward this season.

A look at the Badgers defense

MADISON, WISCONSIN – OCTOBER 02: Wisconsin defensive coach Jim Leonhard looks on in the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Camp Randall Stadium on October 02, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Jim Leonhard’s defense was good on Saturday but not as great as we’ve grown to expect.

Wisconsin, still without No. 1 cornerback Alexander Smith and top nickel corner Justin Clark chose to combat the Washington State air raid offense by playing significantly more dime package, deploying six defensive backs throughout most of the game.

Although the Badgers’ defense only allowed 17 points, 253 yards of offense, and forced three turnovers, Wisconsin’s offense couldn’t help get them any additional breathing room.

And when the game mattered most, UW’s defense failed to make a big play to allow the offense one last crack at winning the game. Washington State held the ball for the final 5:14 of regulation.

Overall, Wisconsin needs its defense to be elite for the Badgers to win games consistently, so while they performed well on Saturday, it wasn’t good enough.

I do not doubt that coach Leonhard and the Badgers’ defense will learn from this game and improve as the season progresses.

Top five highest graded offensive/defensive players

Wisconsin will look to get things back on track in a hurry, considering the Badgers are just two weeks away from a trip to Columbus to take on the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Here’s a look at the top 5 highest graded offensive/defensive players from Wisconsin’s 17-14 loss to Washington State, according to Pro Football Focus:

Top 5 offense

  1. Tyler Beach (84.9) Elite
  2. Jack Nelson (76.9) High Quality
  3. Isaac Guerendo (71.1) Above Average
  4. Logan Brown (70.1) Above Average
  5. Keontez Lewis (69.6) Above Average

Top 5 defense

  1. John Torchio (77.7) High Quality
  2. Isaiah Mullens (75.3) High Quality
  3. Cedrick Dort Jr. (74.2) High Quality
  4. Maema Njongmeta (73.3) High Quality
  5. Jay Shaw (69.4) Above Average

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