The No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers wiped the bad taste out of their mouths after a subpar performance from a week earlier to handily overwhelm the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks 58-0 at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday.
The defense, after giving up 502 yards a week earlier to the Alabama Crimson Tide at AT&T Stadium, rebounded to halt the Redhawks' offense to only 157 yards -- including -3 yards rushing. The Badgers also forced four turnovers on the afternoon.
The offense rode the arm of redshirt senior Joel Stave and the passing game. Stave finished 19-of-30 for 236 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception. The rushing game stalled a bit in the first half, but ended up gaining traction in the second half, as Wisconsin ran for 188 yards total -- including 112 from redshirt junior running back Dare Ogunbowale.
To discuss the Badgers' lopsided victory, our writers break down Saturday's game.
THE GOOD: What went well for Wisconsin?
Neal Olson: On a day where nearly everything went Wisconsin's way, it's hard to zero in on one or two aspects of play. However, I think the emergence of junior wide receiver Robert Wheelwright has to be one of the biggest takeaways from this game. While everyone counted redshirt senior Alex Erickson to carry a bulk of the passing game, Wheelwright flashed playmaking ability with two touchdown catches -- both were nowhere near routine. He did an excellent job of using his body to shield off the defender and secured the ball with clear hands catch, no trapping against his body. The timing between redshirt senior quarterback Joel Stave and Wheelwright is something to watch the rest of the season. If they can continue to execute with success against more talented secondaries, the Badger passing game might truly be a force.
More from the Game
Passing game carries UW again, run game improves
Wisconsin's offense was again carried by the passing game, although the running game is getting back on its feet.
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Jon Arens: Having multiple receiving options in the passing attack has become somewhat of a rarity for the Badgers as of late, so seeing Wheelwright really emerge is incredibly important. Stave continued his excellent play, and his second touchdown pass was a thing of beauty. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is as good as it gets in college football and he continues to show it in games where the Badgers should be taking advantage of their skill and size. This is the fourth shutout of his career in Madison, and I do not think it will be the last this season.
Andrew Rosin: I'll talk about the run defense. Sure, it's against a team where you can't exactly call it a return to form. I mean they've got a village of freshmen, but when you smash up a running game and hold it to negative yardage, it's absolutely a good day. A healthy Michael Caputo is the glue that holds this defense together. And they won't likely see a back nearly as special as Alabama running back Derrick Henry until a potential championship game.
THE BAD: What needs to be improved, and what didn't the Badgers do well?
Neal: Again, hard to harp on much in a 58-0 victory, but the offensive line did not dominate as much as could be hoped. After struggling mightily (actually an understatement) against Alabama, the expectation was a beginning to end tail whipping against the Miami (Ohio) defense. They lacked drive on the snap and struggled to move defenders off the line and occasionally got stood straight up. Blocking is all about leverage, and anytime offensive lineman are standing upright the battle has already been lost. The second half did show some improvement, but that seemed more likely a result of scoreboard combined with fatigue by the defense.
Jon: Wisconsin cannot afford to end first quarter drives with field goals, and that speaks to the still uneven play from the offensive line. The Badgers got bailed out in a huge way by recovering a muffed punt after stalling twice within the red zone. There are two games for the group to get in a groove, but it was an uninspiring start that was not reflected in the final box score.
Andrew: In a 58-0 win you're going to get a similar answer. The offensive line was still inconsistent in terms of getting defenders off the ball and creating space. It's definitely problematic that a very young MAC team coming off a 2-10 season could hold their own in the trenches. It also won't harm the Badgers, yet, as there's still time to find their footing -- but Iowa is a team that can hold up when the Badgers offensive line was strong. Right now? They're not.
GAME MVP: Who shone for Wisconsin?
Even more from the Game
Even more from the Game
Neal: The aforementioned Wheelwright is in strong consideration, but I think redshirt senior wide receiver/safety Tanner McEvoy needs recognition as well. His ability to affect the game on both sides of the ball where clear differentiators for the Badgers. The defense was in much better position when McEvoy was roaming the secondary. His speed allowed him to cover deep sideline to sideline, while giving Caputo more free reign to move up toward the line of scrimmage where he is so effective. It was also nice to get him involved in the offense. Particularly on the second touchdown pass to redshirt senior tight end Austin Traylor, the Miami (Ohio) defense was so concerned about McEvoy that Traylor was able to beat his man in one on one coverage.
Jon: Senior safety Leo Musso got the interceptions, but the most disruptive player all day was McEvoy. His closing speed in the secondary makes him a unique weapon and it showed several times over the course of the game, most notably on his interception return, but also on his pass break up in the first half where he almost got to the ball too quickly. It will be interesting to track his usage over the course of the season.
Andrew: If Neal won't take Wheelwright, I will. In one half, more than doubled his career receiving output and if he didn't drop that last first half pass by the goal line, he would have had three touchdowns in a half. I'm not going to tell you that ol' good legs is going to threaten 25 touchdowns, but it looks like the Badgers have found that second receiver they haven't had for about three years now.
UP NEXT: Troy. What do you want to see from the Badgers against their next non-conference opponent?
Neal: Troy will probably pose a similar challenge to the one offered by Miami (Ohio). It will be hard to take too much away from this game also, but the offensive line definitely has room for improvement. Depending on junior running back Corey Clement's injury status, it would be nice to get him some more consistent work before entering Big Ten play. All in all, the best outcome for Wisconsin will be having everyone emerge healthy.
Jon: It would be nice to see the Badgers storm out of the gate and continue to build on the things that went well for them against the Redhawks. The offensive line will not get much of a challenge before the Big Ten opener against Iowa, so they need to to make sure they are dominating their matchups next weekend regardless of the rotation.
Andrew: I'll keep it simple. The Badgers offensive line gets a consistent push. Something similar everywhere else is cool too, but they need to get the line going to do something better.