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Who Earned Helmet Stickers In the Wisconsin Football Loss to Wazzu?



Wisconsin Football; Badgers QB Tanner Mordecai
Sep 9, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) throws a pass against the Washington State Cougars in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The honeymoon is over. The Wisconsin football team lost to a Washington State team that is, in my opinion, pretty underrated. A fun comeback stalled in the fourth quarter after a really dumb penalty by Kaden Johnson on a big punt return and then a fumble by Chez Mellusi. On the next possession, Wazzu marched down the field and scored a touchdown, putting the game out of reach.

But it wasn’t all bad on Saturday night. Despite the loss, there were a few Wisconsin football players who actually had some pretty good games.

Let’s take a look at which players earned helmet stickers in the Badgers’ loss to Washington State.

Wisconsin Football vs. Wazzu Helmet Sticker No. 1:

Nathanial Vakos

I saw jokes floating around on Twitter, or X, or whatever the hell we are calling it these days, that the Badgers’ kicker, Nathanial Vakos was the MVP of the game. While it’s kind of funny, I think Vakos played a huge role in Wisconsin even getting the back to within two points.

I would argue that without Vakos, I don’t think the Badgers even come back at all. Vakos nailed a 49-yard field goal on the Badgers’ second drive of the game, cutting the Cougars’ lead to 7-3.

The Badgers got into the red zone two more times in the first half, failing to punch the ball in for six. Luckily, Vakos hit both attempts from 33 and 29 yards to keep the score 24-9 at the half.

If Vakos had missed any of those field goals, I think mentally, it would have been even harder for the Badgers to come back. It may not seem like a huge deal, but in a half where it didn’t feel like anything was going right, at least they weren’t missing kicks. That helped the Badgers keep a little wind in their sails and stay within striking distance.

Vakos finished the day 3/3 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points. He has been perfect through two games this season.

Wisconsin Football vs. Wazzu Helmet Sticker No. 2:

Tanner Mordecai

After an uninspiring first game as the quarterback for the Wisconsin football team, Tanner Mordecai showed us a little more on Saturday night. With the running game bottled up by the Washington State defense, the Badgers were forced to open things up and pass the ball.

At first, he looked a little off, making some throws that were a little low or just out of reach of his recievers’ hands on some deep shots. But as the game went on, and especially in the second half, he looked a lot more comfortable. When he actually had time to throw the ball, he was making some nice passes and making plays with his legs when necessary, too.

He finished the game completing 25/40 passes (63%) for 278 yards and a very impressive touchdown pass to Skyler Bell. I truly think things are only going to get better for Mordecai. More live reps in this offense are going to help him and this offense.

On the plus side, if we know an opposing team can stop the run like Wazzu did, we have a quarterback who can make some plays and put up points like we saw on Saturday.

Wisconsin Football vs. Wazzu Helmet Sticker No. 3:

Maema Njongmeta & Jake Chaney

The inside linebacking duo of Maema Njongmeta and Jake Chaney collectively had a great game. We all know Maema is going to make an impact in games. But Jake Chaney was heavily relied upon on Saturday due to Jordan Turner having to miss the first half of the game after his targeting penalty in Week 1 vs. Buffalo.

Maema finished with 10 total tackles, including one sack and a tackle for a loss. Chaney had six total tackles with a sack and a tackle for a loss. Only Hunter Wohler had more tackles (13 total) than Njongmeta and Chaney.

According to PFF, Njongmeta finished with an overall grade of 81.8 (good), but an 87.2 in run defense.

Both players had three pressures each. The pressures are a big part of why the Wisconsin football team got back into the game. At the start of the game, they were rushing just three guys and dropping everyone else back. When they did that, Cam Ward sat in the pocket and picked them apart. When they started sending guys like Njongmeta and Chaney, Ward struggled more.

The defense didn’t have a banner night, but Maema and Chaney were a bright spot on this unit.

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Christian Borman was born and raised in Wisconsin and covers the Badgers football and basketball programs, plus some recruiting for He previously covered the Wisconsin Badgers for years as the site expert for Badger of Honor of the Fansided Network.