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Wisconsin Football Successes and Shortcomings vs. Rutgers

Here’s a look at some of the things Wisconsin football found success in and also their shortcomings vs. Rutgers.



Wisconsin Football; Badgers head coach Luke Fickell on the Badgers sidelines vs. Rutgers
Oct 7, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell greets players during the third quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers Football team advanced to 4-1 on the season and a perfect 2-0 in conference play after a 24-13 win over Rutgers on Saturday

The Badgers have now improved to 5-0 all-time versus the Scarlet Knights and currently sit atop the storied Big Ten West after six weeks. 

Let’s examine a few things that went right for the Badgers — and one thing that didn’t. 

The Wisconsin Football Run Defense Showed Up

When facing Rutgers, a team known for its strong ground game, the Wisconsin football run defense stepped up to the challenge.

Rutgers had been averaging 195 yards per game rushing (No. 3 in B1G) and led the Big Ten in rushing touchdowns.

However, the Badgers defense shut them down, holding Greg Schiano and Co. to just 64 yards on the ground, with an average of 2.9 yards per carry. Even the leading rusher for Rutgers, Kyle Monangai, was limited to only 16 yards.

This was an excellent showing for a Badgers defense that struggled to defend the run through the first four weeks.

Jackson Acker Looked Good in Place of Chez Mellusi

After the unfortunate season-ending injury to Chez Mellusi, Wisconsin football needed someone to step up and fill his shoes. 

Enter Jackson Acker, a sophomore from Verona. Acker proved he was ready for the challenge, carrying the ball 13 times for 65 yards. 

He made an impact right from the start, gaining eight yards on his first carry. In the second quarter, he had an impressive drive, totaling 33 yards on four touches. 

Four of his carries resulted in first downs, including a powerful run in the fourth quarter where he stiff-armed a defender and fought his way past the marker. Acker also chipped in two receptions for 14 yards.

Nobody can replace what Mellusi brought to the table for Wisconsin football, but Acker showed that the Badgers might just have a viable No. 2 option behind Braelon Allen for the stretch run. 

What Went Wrong for Wisconsin Football: Lost the Turnover Battle 

Unfortunately, Wisconsin had a tough time protecting the ball and ended up with a -1 turnover differential during the game. 

One turnover, in particular (Braelon Allen’s fumble), cost the Badgers a scoring opportunity. Additionally, Hayden Rucci fumbled the ball while fighting for extra yardage late in the fourth quarter when Wisconsin was trying to milk the clock, ultimately leading to a late Rutgers touchdown. 

Those turnovers made the final score appear closer than it probably should have been — and must be cleaned up before Wisconsin football takes on Iowa and Ohio State. 

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, and the owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.