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Studs and Duds: Wisconsin Football Upset by Washington State 31-22



Wisconsin football; Badgers QB Tanner Mordecai
Sep 9, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) is tackled from behind by Washington State Cougars defensive end Andrew Edson (95) in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Washington State won 31-22. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin football team has suffered their first loss under the leadership of Head Coach Luke Fickell against the Washington State Cougars.

Heading into Pullman, the Badgers were ranked as the 19th team in the country. Wisconsin had been eager for another chance to prove themselves after some struggles against the Buffalo Bulls. However, the Badgers got off to another slow start against the Cougars and never quite recovered. Despite the poor result there were still multiple players who contributed to the potential comeback.

Wisconsin Football Shocked by 31-22 Washington State Loss in Pullman 

The Wisconsin football team visited the great state of Washington in hopes of correcting their mistakes from the 2023 season opener. Wisconsin was met with another tough challenge as Washington State looked to build off of their win over the Badgers from a season ago. In the end, the Cougars were able to pull off the upset over the 19th-ranked Badgers after leading 24-9 at halftime.

Much like the game against Buffalo, Wisconsin got off to a slow start on offense. The Badgers were struggling to string together multiple positive plays and made key errors that led to the Cougars’ scores. Below are three studs and three duds from the tough loss against the Cougars.

Wisconsin Football Studs: Will Pauling, Preston Zachman, Maema Njongmeta 

Sep 9, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Ricardo Hallman (2) celebrates after play against the Washington State Cougars in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

For the second week in a row, Sophomore wide receiver Will Pauling has impressed once again. The talented receiver has an exceptional release and consistently finds ways to gain separation against tough defenders. Pauling hauled in five receptions for 78 yards, with a long of 27 yards. It may take some time for Pauling to truly breakout for the Badgers, but the receiver has shown flashes of his abilities already in his first two games.

Another Sophomore who had himself a great day was safety Preston Zachman. The defensive back made three solo tackles and one pass defense while covering the middle of the field. Zachman recorded one tackle in the season opener against Buffalo, but looked like a different player in coverage against Washington. The safety could be a major boost for the Badgers defense while veteran Kamo’i Latu continues to struggle.

After a quiet first game of the season, Maema Njongmeta bounced back against the Washington State Cougars. The Senior linebacker recorded 10 tackles, one sack, and three tackles for loss against a fast-paced offense. Despite the defensive struggles in the game, Njongmeta getting back on track is a good sign for the future.

Wisconsin Football Duds: Alexander Smith, Jordan Turner, Tanor Bortolini

Wisconsin Badgers Football

Sep 9, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward (1) gets the pass away before getting hit by Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jake Chaney (36) in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

In the game against the Cougars, the Wisconsin football team hurried the quarterback eight times and recorded four sacks. However, the team struggled to respond to the high-speed nature of the Washington offense. Quarterback Cameron Ward and running back Kyle Williams proved to be too much for the Wisconsin defense. In particular, two players struggled the most, starting with cornerback Alexander Smith. Smith recorded one solo tackle while missing another and allowing five receptions on six targets.

Linebacker Jordan Turner also struggled against the Cougars, as his lone tackle was an assist. Turner missed two other tackles later in the game, which cost the Wisconsin football defense. While Smith and Turner struggled on defense, the Badgers had a subpar performance overall, which will hopefully be fixed before their next game.

On the offensive side of the ball, there were quite a few miscues that allowed the Cougars to capitalize. One player who seemed to be in the middle of most of the struggles on offense was center Tanor Bortolini. Bortolini had multiple defenders in his face all afternoon and allowed a few rushers through. While Bortolini had a difficult game, the entire Badgers offensive line seemed to have a bad game as well.

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Jarrett Guerrera is a graduate of Western New England University with a Bachelor's in English. Jarrett played rugby at the collegiate level, and has been a sports fanatic all his life. Jarrett is also a contributor for Wisconsin Sports Heroics.