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Wisconsin Football Triumphs Over Buffalo: Here’s What Stood Out



Wisconsin football; Badgers vs. Buffalo at Camp Randall Stadium
Sep 2, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; The Wisconsin Badgers line up for a play during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bulls at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Luke Fickell era for Wisconsin football is officially underway, but it started a little slower than expected.

The Badgers overcame an unpolished first half and ran the ball down Buffalo’s throat en route to a 38-17 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 76,224 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.

UW’s new-look offense under Phil Longo looked an awful lot like the power running scheme we’ve come to know and love run from the spread, mixed with some quick hitters in the passing game.

The Wisconsin defense under Mike Tressel looked a little disjointed at times, IMO. The Badgers football team allowed 316 yards of offense (194 passing, 122 rushing) but made enough plays when it mattered.

Here are a few things that stood out to me from the Wisconsin Badgers week one win over Buffalo.

The Wisconsin Football Passing Game Was Meh…

Starting quarterback Tanner Mordecai completed 24-of-31 pass attempts for 189 yards (6.1 YPA) with one touchdown and two interceptions.

While that stat line seems underwhelming (especially the yards per attempt), there’s no denying it would look a whole lot better if Skyler Bell caught that 60-yard pass in the second quarter.

If that throw goes for six as it should have — Mordecai ends with 249 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one pick with 8.03 yards per attempt, and everyone feels a lot better about the passing game.

Phil Longo‘s offense is designed for Mordecai to throw a bunch of quick hitters, let his weapons make plays after the catch, and keep defenses honest by occasionally pushing the ball downfield.

Even though Wisconsin football ran a vanilla version of its offense in week one, there were some encouraging signs. Mordecai wasn’t terrific by any stretch of the imagination, but the Badgers offense will be fine — changing your identity is a process.

Wisconsin Football Running Backs Stole the Shole

Everyone who tuned into the Wisconsin football game on Saturday was excited to watch the air raid offense. But the 1 – 2 punch of Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi stole the show, running for a combined 298 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries. 

Mellusi, now a full year removed from a knee injury, looked spry and decisive out of the backfield. He finished with 13 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns. I think Mellusi is a better fit in this offensive system, given his one-cut running style. 

Agent 0 also had himself a day, carrying the ball 17 times for 141 yards and two scores of his own while chipping in a career-high seven catches for 25 receiving yards. I thought Allen was patient in waiting for his blocking to develop, and it was clear he wanted to run people over (I love that). 

We all knew coming into this season that Wisconsin football would still lean heavily on the run game — but both tailbacks clearly benefited from having more room to operate. Who knows, maybe the Badgers offense will actually use running backs in the passing game after all.

The Badgers Rotated Heavily on the Defensive Line 

Under Jim Leonhard, the Badgers had one of the nation’s best run-stopping defensive units. And the defensive line, in particular, only played four or five guys they trusted. 

But in Mike Tressel‘s new defensive scheme, he and Greg Scruggs rotated six players on the defensive line in the opener. The coaching staff talked about wanting a lot of guys to rotate in, and I’ll be the first one to admit I thought that was just off-season coach speak. 

Rodas Johnson, James Thompson Jr., Gio Paez, Cade McDonald, Ben Barten, and Curt Neal all saw snaps on Saturday, and that doesn’t include Darian Varner, who many expect to be a contributor and Isaiah Mullens, who was held out with an injury. 

I don’t see a ton of playmakers on the defensive line, but this will be an exciting development to monitor in the coming weeks. Opportunity is there for any young d-lineman to seize and earn more snaps for the Wisconsin football team. 

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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.