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Wisconsin Football Notebook: Final Thoughts, Takeaways From Week 3

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Wisconsin Badgers Football: Camp Randall Stadium
Sep 16, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Georgia Southern Eagles tight end Jjay McAfee (9) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin football program had another up-and-down performance en route to a 35-14 victory over Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon.

Now, 2-1, the Badgers get back to work ahead of a week four Friday Night Lights matchup against Purdue to kick off Big Ten play in West Lafayette.

There were some key takeaways from Saturday’s performance, so let’s dive in.

Wisconsin Football Thoughts, Observations, & Other Ramblings. 

Offensive line coach Jack Bicknell might have to shake up his starting five before Wisconsin football takes on Purdue. Trey Wedig, the Badgers’ sixth offensive lineman, played more snaps on Saturday than Joe Huber and Michael Furtney. He also played better than both of them. 

Wedig has been among the better performers on the offensive line thus far and represents a noteworthy upgrade over Furtney as a run-blocker. That said, Huber played the fewest amount of snaps of the trio. Either way, I’ve not been impressed with the Badgers in the trenches, and Wedig has been one of the better run/pass blockers on the team — he needs an increased role — and the coaches seem to agree. 

***

So far, the Wisconsin football pass rush has been a concern of mine. But the numbers don’t seem to agree with my eye test. Through three games, the Badgers defense has generated 22.6 pressures a game — despite not having a stud pass rusher for the first time in quite a while. 

For reference, the Wisconsin Badgers defenses have averaged 15.4 pressures per game over the last decade. That tells me that Mike Tressel has done a better job scheming up pressure than I initially thought. 

I understand those numbers won’t likely hold up once the competition level increases, but it’s encouraging nonetheless. 

***

On a more frustrating note, the Wisconsin football secondary has looked piss-poor through the first three games. It’s abundantly clear that UW wants to play heavy-man coverage, but I question whether or not the Badgers have the talent at cornerback for that to work right now. 

And to some level, the coaching staff has to agree because they haven’t played more than four cornerbacks in a game yet this season. Only Ricardo Hallman, Alexander Smith, Nyzier Fourqurean, and Jason Maitre have seen playing time. 

Wisconsin’s defense allowed 455 total yards, including 383 through the air and seven passing plays of more than 15 yards, which is way too much against an opponent like Georgia Southern.

Execution needs to be a LOT better moving forward. I must acknowledge that Wisconsin’s defense had six takeaways, which was incredible, but I still didn’t feel good about the product on the field. 

***

This one might be a hot take, but the Wisconsin football coaching staff should consider cutting Maema Njongmeta’s snaps back, at least in the short term. I fully acknowledge that he’s playing through an injury and has performed admirably, but Njongmeta’s tied for the team lead in missed tackles (5) and missing one in 20% of plays where he’s in position.

Additionally, for a team that needs to get after the quarterback, inside linebacker is a position where the Badgers have gotten pressure. Although Njongmeta is second on the team in pressures (11), he has a far lower pressure rate (4.2%) compared to Jake Chaney (8.3%) and Jordan Turner (7.1%). 

I want to clarify: I don’t think he should have his time cut considerably; he’s still a stud player on the Wisconsin football defense. But until he fully recovers (if possible), it may be worth spreading some of his snaps to the other options in the rotation. 

***

Some housekeeping: 

  • Tanner Mordecai has been pretty damn good, IMO. 
  • Skyler Bell is one of the best playmakers on the offense, and I think he’ll continue to be a bigger part of the offense moving forward. 
  • Riley Mahlman is quietly having a good season at right tackle.
  • Hunter Wohler is a STAR.
  • Austin Brown played well in his first extended look at safety. 
  • It was good to see Kamo’i Latu bounce back.
  • Wisconsin football rotating just three OLBs: Darryl Peterson, C.J. Goetz, and Jeff Pietrowski concerns me. 


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