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Beyond the Score: Wisconsin Football vs. Purdue Analytics Breakdown



Wisconsin football; Badgers wide receiver C.J. Williams
Sep 22, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Purdue Boilermakers cornerback Marquis Wilson (16) tackles Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver C.J. Williams (4) during the first half at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

It was a big win for Wisconsin Badgers Football Friday night vs. Purdue. The Badgers kicked the Slow-Start bug, and have become a Turnover-inducing machine on defense. But all of that seems moot to the fact we lost one of the most important pieces to the offense on Friday Night in Chez Mellusi. I won’t dwell on it too much here, as it goes without saying the grit and tenacity he displayed wearing that Badger Uniform will be sorely missed.

With that, I’ll get into it all in this initial recap. But I’ll go into much more detail in my new “DEEP DIVE” series, where I dive into Player-Tracking Data and more!!

Alright, let’s jump into the Wisconsin Badgers Analytics Recap!

Play Call Distribution & EPA:

Play Calls:

Wisconsin badgers football vs. Purdue analytics charts
Wisconsin badgers football vs. Purdue analytics charts
Wisconsin badgers football vs. Purdue analytics charts


We can see that the Wisconsin Badgers PA/RPO game was pretty solid on 1st Down. On 2nd Down, I would have liked to have seen a bit more PA/RPO Passes.


Wisconsin badgers football vs. Purdue analytics charts
Wisconsin badgers football vs. Purdue analytics charts
Wisconsin football vs. Purdue analytics charts



You can see on 1st Down no play was “successful” on an EPA/Play basis. On 2nd Down the passing game was much more impactful from an EPA basis than the Run-Game, with the PA/RPO passes narrowly beating out Straight Dropbacks! Our Run Plays on 3rd Down were the Most Successful from an EPA/Play basis. 5.17 EPA was generated on 3 plays, both Mordecai’s TD Runs & Braelon’s final TD of the night!

But we we’re very good all night on 3rd Downs (67% Conversion) due in large part to the many 3rd and manageable situations we left ourselves!!!

Over 63% in a “manageable” situation. So, when you average it out you get 5.79 AVG Yards-To-Go. But in reality, 63% of our 3rd downs were in a very manageable position, when you average those situations you get 3.67 AVG Yards-To-Go.


So it’s no wonder we were so good on 3rd Down, which ultimately really helps your EPA/Play.

If you can recall from my EPA Primer, moving the chains and getting a fresh set of downs with a better field position is the whole idea of the EPA Model. And it gives you a general understanding of which plays & players add the most value to WINNING!!!


You’ll see this theme play out in the 1st Half and 2nd Half Breakouts below, so I won’t go into much more detail on this!

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

Again, things were pretty similar 1st Half and Second Half. We didn’t do a ton of “Damage” on 1st and 2nd Downs. But we moved the ball into extremely manageable positions and executed on 3rd Downs.

There were certainly opportunities for big plays in the 1st Half, especially in the Passing Game (Rucci Drop/Skyler Bell Drop) that would have flipped the script on Run vs. Pass “Success” and 1st-3rd Down “Success”.

But they weren’t connected on, yet we were able to overcome those mishaps. Overall the way we were able to control the LOS in both halves, but specifically in the 1st Half is a terrific sign for Wisconsin Badgers Football!

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

You can see in the 2nd Half we made a concerted effort on 1st Down to either Run or work the PA/RPO off it. I continue to believe this is the correct strategy and would probably work more PA/RPO than what they ran.

It wasn’t “Successful” on an EPA/Play basis sure. But I felt it kept the defense off-balance on 2nd Down where we saw a lot of success in the PA/RPO Game when we used it!

I felt there could have been much more usage. But with such a big lead and continued ability to set up 3rd and manageable situations through the Run-Game. We didn’t have to be that aggressive.

EPA/Play x Half & Game:

Overall, in the 2nd Half given a different situation, I feel we would have seen a lot more PA/RPO given how Purdue had to defend. Even with those defensive play calls, we still only “lost” (0.10) EPA/Play running the ball in the 2H. Some more effectiveness running the ball probably would have turned 1-2 of those FGs into TDs and the game would have had a completely different feeling.

Could Longo have substituted some more PA/RPOs on 1st or 2nd Down in the RZ to finish off those drives? I think definitely, I also think you want to score and burn clock up 3 Scores. So I’m not going to 2nd guess anything in a 21-Point Victory. In a tighter game, I’ll be much more scrupulous!!!

So looking at this, the PA/RPO game looked to be snuffed out. I think it’s a very misleading takeaway. But given the 3 TD win, I’m not bothered enough to want or feel I need to make the case we should have used more!!

Taking a step back from the minutiae of Play-Call Mix. This is the FIRST Game in which All Three Play-Call Types have been positive throughout the entire game! This offense is trending upwards!!


Wisconsin Football EPA Leaders:

Tanner Mordecai (Passing):

While the Passing TD numbers haven’t come like some would have expected for Mordecai. There are still so many good things happening from him in the Passing Game. Personally, I don’t care what kind of numbers he puts up.

What I care about is whether he does the things that get us closer to winning. Which he does, his 2nd and especially his 3rd Down Passing vs. Purdue was fantastic. This EPA/Play is INCLUSIVE of his INT intended for Chimere. And on that INT I would place about 60/40 blame on Mordecai for it. Could it have been quicker and more to the outside? Yes. But Chimere could and should have put up a better fight for that football!!!

Regardless of that, and the drops I mentioned before that also impact his EPA output. Mordecai was Plus in both PA/RPO and Straight DB Passing for the game.

Not ELITE, but certainly not mediocre.

Rushing/Receiving EPA Leaders:

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

Wisconsin Badgers Football vs. Purdue analytics charts


Braelon Allen & Chez Mellusi still maintained their top spots in terms of usage within this offense. This is something I haven’t addressed much so far, by losing Chez we are losing about 18% of our Offense from a Touches & Production standpoint. Not to mention the other intangibles he brought to the table.

The other storyline that got a lot of attention through the Media surrounding his workload pre & post Purdue was C.J Williams. He got a significant boost in targets this week! Dike/Green/Bell/Pauling/Ashcraft were all in that same tier (3-6 Targets)!

Who will fill the gaping void left by Mellusi, will it be Pauling & Bell with more Swing/Flat routes as “Quasi” Run Plays? Will it be a mix of Jackson Acker and Cade Yacamelli in the Run-Game? None of this is a good problem for OC Phil Longo to have, but if there is a silver lining to be seen. It’s that he has 14 Days to figure out how he wants to fill that void and see how that plays out in practice in preparation for Rutgers on October 7th!

EPA Totals x Player:

Wisconsin Badgers Football vs. Purdue analytics charts

Braelon had an unbelievable night vs. Purdue! Far and away our most productive player from an EPA generation. C.J Williams, Chimere Dike were close behind with a few 3rd Down Grabs between the two. Will Pauling and Tanner Mordecai were the only other players to generate positive EPA vs. Purdue.

The biggest struggles came from Bryson Green who has had a bad go since his WSU performance. Given his ability is right on par with Dike and Williams, he should be adding more to this team.

For Skyler Bell, the ball is completely in his own court to provide more of an impact to this team. The TD drop vs. Buffalo and now vs. Purdue. If he’s able to haul both of those passes in, I think internally as a fanbase and externally (Media + B1G Coaches) we would respect our downfield passing game much more if the connection was made on both of those plays!!!


EPA/Play x Player:

Wisconsin Badgers Football vs. Purdue analytics charts

On an EPA/Play basis, Dike and C.J Williams had some really impactful receptions. Obviously, Braelon averaging 0.40 EPA/Play on 17 Touches is incredible stuff!!! We’re going to continue to need that level of production from him. Green, Bell, Ashcraft, and Rucci will all need to make 1-2 more plays a game to fill that void left by Chez!

Wisconsin Football Defense:

If you’re an optimist, you’re going to focus on the amount of turnovers the Wisconsin Defense was able to get Friday and the fact we held Purdue to 0 TDs in the First Half. If you’re a pessimist, you’ll focus on the two TD drives given up in the 2nd Half and the 6.3+ YPA given up on the ground.

The turnover bug from the first two games can now officially be cast into the abyss. Especially after we’re able to generate 2 Multi-Turnover games back to back!

My main concern with the Wisconsin Football Defense lay within our ability to play man-coverage, due to the amount of blown coverages they’ve shown in those schemes allowing BIG PLAYS. We saw a significant reduction in man coverage vs. Purdue, and in turn, nearly no big plays were allowed in the Pass-Game. The same can’t be said for the Run-Game…

UW Defense vs. Purdue – Run Game:

Another area I have some pretty great concerns about for this UW defense is their run-stopping ability. UW had a 21% Stuff Rate against Purdue, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t good either!

Where we struggled mightily was the “Boom” Plays in the Run-Game. Tyrone Tracey Jr. and Hudson Card both had Boom Rates (Plays with EPA Generated >1.00) of 37.5% and 30.8% respectively!

That can’t be a continual trend in B1G play. It didn’t hurt us in the 1st Half given the number of Self-Inflicted Penalties Purdue had knocking them out of scoring position. That won’t happen against Iowa and Ohio St.

Final Thoughts on Wisconsin Football vs. Purdue:


The Badgers 3 & Out’s + Defensive Mistakes, and Poor Communication were non-existent for Wisconsin Football at the start of Friday’s matchup vs. Purdue. I talked in my recap of Georgia Southern that:

“Once is an anomaly, twice is concerning, THREE TIMES is alarming. If it doesn’t change Friday vs. Purdue. We may need to reconsider expectations because although we’ve overcome them twice.”

We’ve kicked that to the curb, but I wouldn’t say Purdue is on the level of opponent we need to see it against. I’ll have more faith if we can replicate the start vs. Rutgers. But ultimately we’ll need to see it versus Iowa to truly get this monkey off our backs!!

– The PA/RPO Game is in really good shape

The PA/RPO Game was the Badgers least “Successful” Play-Call throughout the entire game. But I don’t think we utilized it enough AGAIN, in my opinion. This is okay because even though we left some points on the board in the 3Q. We stuck to a Run-Heavy Attack, which I’m okay with even though it may or may not have left some points on the board in the 2H!

But I think from an offensive standpoint, especially in the games 1-3, we’ve been stymied out of the gates. I think that has a lot to do with our game plan being to “establish the run”, which is great…unless we can’t execute like we did in games 1-3. I “feel” in my bones that Longo would have switched to a much more PA/RPO intensive game plan had things gone astray in the 1H. But THANKFULLY they didn’t and we imposed our will on Purdue for the entire 60 Minutes!

– When things get Cooking…Watch Out!!!

As bad as our slow starts were in games 1-3, when we got things cooking…IT LOOKED REALLY GOOD!!! On Friday night…it looked that good from the get-go, with UW scoring TDs on its first 3 drives. It should have been 4/4, had Skyler Bell caught an absolute DIME from Tanner Mordecai.

I think based on what I saw on social media, people have taken their hand away from the panic button. One thing though is they still haven’t played 4 Full Quarters of complimentary football. Highlighted by that 3rd Quarter that raised everyone’s blood pressure. I know what I was thinking, “Oh we just switched the halves in which we played like junk…great!”

Until we can play a Full Game of complementary football, and the unknowns caused by the Chez injury. They’ll continue to be much closer to a 9-3 expectation than 11-1.

I can’t wait for the Wisconsin Badgers matchup vs. Rutgers, where hopefully we can dampen the Chez loss with increased output from Pauling/Bell/Aschraft/Green/Acker and put that first Full 4-Quarter game together and dominate Rutgers!!! Pushing our expectations firmly back to Double-Digit Regular Season Wins!

On Wisconsin!

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Gard Your Fickell is a leading authority on Wisconsin Badgers analytics, specializing in dissecting the intricate data behind football and basketball. With a deep passion for the game and an analytical mindset, Gard Your Fickell offers readers a unique perspective on the Badgers performance.