The Wisconsin football program kicked off conference play with a bang, earning a 38-17 victory on the road against Purdue. It wasn’t a pretty or complete game by the Badgers, but UW did enough to come away with a win and head into the bye week at 3-1.
Here are my grades for Wisconsin’s offense, defense, and special teams in the Big Ten opener.
Wisconsin Football Offense Grade: B
The offense was easily one of the biggest bright spots for Wisconsin in the win over Purdue, but I thought the way UW utilized Tanner Mordecai was one of the main reasons why.
Mordecai isn’t your prototypical dual-threat quarterback, but he still possesses the ability to get out of the pocket and use his legs well. The sixth-year senior was able to run his way into the endzone twice while rushing for 58 yards. On top of that, Mordecai went 17-for-27 with 174 yards through the air. We’ve finally seen some glimpses of what Mordecai will be, and if he’s able to put the puzzle pieces together during the bye week, the Big Ten should look out.
Of course, the biggest storyline coming out of this game was Chez Mellusi’s injury. He had to get an air cast put on, and the replay did not look good in the slightest. You just have to feel absolutely gutted for Mellusi, who has had his fair share of injury problems since coming to Madison. Though his time was cut short, the fifth-year senior put on a show alongside Braelon Allen, combining for 155 yards on the ground. Allen would also rush for two touchdowns. This game seemed to be a return to form for Allen after seemingly playing a step slow — and banged up — through the first few weeks of the season.
Wisconsin also got some nice contributions from CJ Williams and Chimere Dike in the receiving game, but the drops by Skyler Bell and Will Pauling were a bit discouraging. Would like to see those cut down after the bye week.
There was plenty to be happy about with Wisconsin’s performance, but it wasn’t a spectacular showing from the offense. Going forward, UW will need to cut down on the penalties (looking at you, Jack Nelson) and will need to put together a complete four quarters of offense.
Wisconsin Football Defense Grade: C+
I’m not crazy about how Wisconsin’s defense performed against Purdue, but there were some bright spots.
Ricardo Hallman and James Thompson Jr. were undoubtedly the stars on Wisconsin’s defense tonight. Hallman secured two interceptions on the night while also logging three tackles and two passes defended. Meanwhile, Thompson finished the night with six tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and one pass defended. At two key positions, Wisconsin was able to get some crucial contributions from some key contributors.
It wasn’t all great, though. I’m going to be frank for a second here: I’m getting a little tired of seeing these big chunk plays given up by Wisconsin. It’s been a consistent problem for the past few weeks, and while there may have been some improvement tonight, there were still far too many big plays given up for my liking.
There are still plenty of kinks to work out in Wisconsin’s defense, but this game seemed like a very small step in the right direction. Hopefully, Mike Tressel can have this group ready as they venture further into conference play.
Wisconsin Football Special Teams Grade: A-
Wisconsin found themselves a good one in Ohio transfer Nathanial Vakos. The sophomore knocked through all three of his field goal attempts to remain perfect on the season. With his three on Friday night, he’s now 7-of-7 on three-point tries.
Four games in, I have to say I’m very impressed with what Atticus Bertrams has brought to this team. He’s been a mark of consistency, and he had some damn good punts on Friday night.
It was also great to see Chimere Dike run a couple of kicks back. The senior receiver had two returns for 34 yards and 39 yards, respectively. He’s shown that he can be a threat, and you’d love to see him break off a return for six at some point this year.
The only thing bringing this grade down was Jack Van Dyke’s kick out of bounds. This has now become a consistent issue for the kickoff specialist, as he’s sent three balls sailing out of bounds through four games.
The Wisconsin football program is now off to a 3-1 start in the Luke Fickell era. The Badgers will head into the bye week before facing Rutgers on October 7th.
Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here. Also, like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter @JakeJMaier.
Former Wisconsin Basketball Coach Named to Naismith Watchlist
Wisconsin Badgers to Be Featured in EA Sports College Football Game
Wisconsin Basketball Forward Markus Ilver Forced His Way Into the Rotation
Former Wisconsin Basketball Star Frank Kaminsky Inks New Deal
Wisconsin Football Student Section Was Embarrassing vs. Ohio State
Paul Chryst Emerging as Top Target for Big Ten Coaching Vacancy
FB Recruiting3 days ago
Wisconsin Football Late to the Dance, Makes Unexpected Play for Recruit
Football4 days ago
Wisconsin Football Running Back Facing Make or Break Season
Football1 day ago
Wisconsin Football Bolstered Its Secondary With a Top-Graded Transfer
FB Recruiting1 day ago
Wisconsin Football Recruiting Target Picks up Unfortunate Crystal Ball