As the season opener for the Badgers drew closer, everybody and their brother expected the Wisconsin football air raid offense to be the key storyline in the post-game press conference.
The Badgers’ dynamic 1, 2 punch at tailback accounted for 298 of Wisconsin’s 318 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Those light boxes Phil Longo‘s spread offense generated played a significant role in allowing the offensive line to open running lanes for UW’s show ponies.
Individually, Mellusi carried the ball 13 times for 157 yards (12.1 YPC) and two touchdowns — including an 89-yard TD run that earned him the BadgerNotes DAWG of the Week. On the other hand, Allen had 17 rushes for 141 yards (8.3 YPC) and found paydirt twice while also catching a career-high seven passes for another 25 yards receiving.
As impressive as the surface-level numbers are, the advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus help illustrate just how amazing of a day the Wisconsin football tandem had in the season opener.
Let’s dive in.
The Numbers Suggest Wisconsin Football RBs Were Nearly Unstoppable.
Wisconsin football fans have seen their fair share of dominant running back play over the last few decades, so some people out there may be numb to these performances. However, this was a combined effort where Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi each put on a show.
Let’s start with Mellusi. Now that the 5-foot-11, 210-pound RB is a full year removed from a knee injury, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Mellusi appears to have a little extra juice than in years past.
Mellusi looked explosive & decisive, and it also bears mentioning that his one-cut running style is a better fit for Phil Longo’s scheme. Mellusi finished the game with 83 rushing yards after contact and averaged 6.38 yards after contact per carry.
— SportingVids (@VidsSporting) September 2, 2023
Additionally, he had four carries that went for 10+ yards. Mellusi’s importance to the Wisconsin football offense cannot be understated.
Finally, we have to discuss preseason All-American Braelon Allen. In what will likely be his final season in Madison, expectations for the Badgers junior tailback are understandably high.
What stood out to me was Allen’s patience in waiting for blocks to develop, and when he decided to hit the hole — the Fond du Lac native was out there trying to run dudes over.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound RB finished the day against Buffalo with 91 of his 141 yards coming after contact — that’s an average of 5.35 YPC. But perhaps more importantly, Allen forced NINE missed tackles en route to four rushes of 10+ yards.
— Badgers Film Clips (@Badgers_Film) September 4, 2023
Allen is a powerful runner with above-average speed when he has enough space to operate. The light boxes narrative has been beaten to death, but nobody … and I mean nobody is happier to see lighter defensive fronts than Wisconsin football RB Braelon Allen.
Health will always be critical in any team’s running back room, but if these guys can stay healthy, the Badgers football team can produce on the ground at an elite efficiency clip without a shadow of a doubt in 2023.
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