Happy bye week, friends. Wisconsin heads into its first of the season after taking down Western Illinois with relative second-half ease on Saturday. Next up is Bowling Green in two weeks, and it will be fascinating to see whether the bye week helps, hinders or doesn't really affect Wisconsin's development after beating up on an inferior opponent.
Let's get to the links. When necessary, I'll try to link together everything under a few common themes moving forward.
Melvin Gordon kept in check
Melvin Gordon has always expected opponents to stack the box against the Badgers' offense this season, and indeed LSU and Western Illinois followed that template closely. The Badgers' star running back rushed 17 times for just 38 yards -- that's a 2.2 yards-per-carry average for those afraid of consulting the calculator (or poor at mental math).
"It felt real good," Gordon said. "We put something on film for other teams to watch and help us a little bit. When (McEvoy is) playing at that high level and they want to stop the run, that's OK, because we'll kill them in the passing game and that will help us win."
Sure, Western Illinois is Western Illinois, but that game in particular, coming off that second-half LSU debacle, is where you need to see positive growth. The passing game in particular was under high scutiny, and Tanner McEvoy succeeded after a slow start.
Of course, Gordon knows that one good day -- again, against Western Illinois -- won't change much about opponents' plans.
"It felt like everyone and their momma was in that box," Gordon said.
"It was tough, man. But I've just got to work harder; offense, we've just got to work harder and get prepared because we're probably going to see a lot of that this year."
McEvoy steps up
We'll have more in-depth analysis of what worked in the offense coming soon, but McEvoy's ability to build lengthy drives around shorter completions (hello, bubble screen) and actually complete many of his longer passes was fantastic to see. In total, he finished 23-of-28 for 283 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
"He showed me that he can be the guy," tailback Melvin Gordon said. "There was a lot of adversity. I watch Big Ten Network and I see the tweets, you know, bashing Tanner (about) this and that. I think he really showed the doubters today. He's the guy and he can do whatever it takes to win the ballgame for us."
Hello, Alex Erickson
Great stat from Madison.com (I work my through the various UW outlets in a similar pattern each day, FYI): McEvoy hit wide receiver Alex Erickson five times for 58 yards on those bubble screens. Erickson obviously deserves most of that credit for those yards after catch, and in doing so, he only strengthened his case for Jared Abbrederis' heir apparent.
"Alex made a lot of football plays," UW coach Gary Andersen said. "He caught it over the middle very, very well. He's fearless. He's a competitor. He's fast. I think Tanner feels very comfortable, as all our quarterbacks do, throwing the ball to Alex. It was just great to see him because he's worked so hard since the bowl game to get this moment."