Wisconsin Badgers vs. New Mexico State: What to watch for
Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin Badgers (1-1) will host the New Mexico State Aggies (0-3) on Saturday, September 13, at Camp Randall Stadium.
Following a brutal 17-14 loss against the Washington State Cougars, the Badgers will look to right the ship in their final non-conference matchup.
Here are some items worth watching for in week three:
How will the Badger’s offense respond following a disappointing loss?
In Wisconsin’s week one matchup against Illinois State, the Badgers put together a complete performance on the ground and through the air.
In week two, it was not the same story.
While the offensive stats favored Wisconsin, costly mistakes allowed the Cougars to secure a 17-14 win. The Badgers committed three turnovers last week, with two fumbles and one interception.
The game plan had a few bumps in the road, considering Washington State had answers for the UW’s running back duo of Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi. Furthermore, the wide receiver group struggled after Chimere Dike, and Markus Allen dropped passes.
One group that struggled the most was the offensive line. Left guard Tyler Beach and right tackle Logan Brown notched a top 5 offensive PFF grade, but all and all, the line was disappointing.
Although quarterback Graham Mertz made impressive throws when given time in the pocket, he did not have adequate time on all his dropbacks.
Heading into Saturday’s matchup, the Badgers must come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. The offense will need a big game from their running back tandem, who struggled against Washington State’s sound run defense. Conversely, the WR room must get involved against New Mexico State and limit mistakes when given the opportunity.
After a tough outing last week, how the Badger’s offense responds will be an interesting storyline to watch in week 3.
Will Clay Cundiff become the focal point of Wisconsin’s passing attack?
Although Clay Cundiff coughed up an untimely fumble in the fourth quarter against Washington State, the redshirt junior tight end looked like one of the best receiving options on the Wisconsin offense.
In week two, the Kansas native hauled in four catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite the back-breaking turnover, Cundiff received a vote of confidence from his quarterback after a strong performance in week two.
#Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz calls TE Clay Cundiff “a fighter” and a “reliable” option.
Cundiff fumbled in a crucial moment in Saturday’s loss. QB1 saw a great response from the group during Monday’s walkthrough. pic.twitter.com/azwzXjiUpB
— Pablo Iglesias (@PabloIglesiasTV) September 12, 2022
Mertz has favored the tight ends in the passing game in his two years as a starter, and Cundiff looks like a reliable option for the third-year starter.
The 6-foot-3, 236-pound tight end has caught six passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns through two games.
Cundiff has the tools to be a formidable tight end and will be a player to watch as he builds off a strong outing in week two.
If you keep an eye on any one player this week, Clay Cundiff is an excellent place to start.
Will the special teams unit fix the mistakes?
Although there were plenty of concerns coming out of week two, the special teams unit was arguably the biggest.
The special teams unit proved costly in the matchup against Washington State as kicker Vito Calvaruso missed two field goal attempts. The Arkansas transfer is now 1-for-4 on field goal attempts in two games this year.
However, Calvaruso was not the only concern on special teams. At the beginning of the third quarter, Washington State had a significant kickoff return that later set up a field goal to close the gap on Wisconsin’s lead and ultimately allowed the Cougars to notch a three-point victory.
Not only that, but the return game has been a big concern for Wisconsin. In two games, punt returner Dean Engram has posted only two yards in his return opportunities. The Badgers are losing out on field position due to the poor return game, which is becoming costly to the Badger’s success in the third phase.
For Wisconsin to get things back on track and notch a victory in week three, limiting mistakes on special teams will be one of the most critical factors.
Although the offense will need to make strides in week three, the special teams unit may be one of the most important groups to watch.
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