I'll admit it. Earlier in the summer I predicted Jacob Pedersen taking the next step in UW's offense, and making a serious case for being tabbed an All-American. Based off the last couple seasons, he looked primed for a big year, but I was wrong.
To put this lack of production in perspective, check out these stats from Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Pedersen entered the Purdue game with one catch for 16 yards in two Big Ten conference games and had just four catches for 49 yards in the previous four games. We certainly expected more of Wisconsin's stud tight end through the halfway mark of the season.
But against Purdue on Saturday, Pedersen found his stride, playing his best game of the season. The redshirt junior catch four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Boilermakers, a refreshing sight for Badger fans.
Ideally, Pedersen's role in the offense will continue to increase through the remainder of the season. Jared Abbrederis is hands-down the best receiver on this offense, but better defenses will zero in on him, forcing UW to find reliable second, third and fourth options through the air.
There are many reasonable explanations why Pedersen's production level has decreased this season. He's dealt with different roles in the offense, multiple quarterbacks, multiple offensive line coaches, and a new offensive coordinator. He's had his fair share of dropped passes and struggles in blocking situations as well, but that's a tough adjustment to ask of anybody. But after catching 30 passes for over 350 yards and eight touchdowns last season (not to mention just starting in seven of fourteen games), it seemed his stats would only inflate after becoming the permanent starter.
However, with the first six games in the rear-view mirror, an outstanding showing against Purdue may just have provided the spark Pedersen needed to jump-start his season.
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