The No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers and its offense continued its positive progress since the its opening week loss to Alabama. After taking a step forward against Miami (Ohio) with 188 yards rushing while the passing game carried the team last week, the Badgers focused on establishing the run early against a Troy Trojans defense giving up 257 yards per game -- and succeeded -- helping to balance the offense in their 28-3 win at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.
"Offensively, I thought we did a better job of running the ball consistently, which I think there's some things that we can build on and certainly some areas where we get better," Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said after the game Saturday. "I think we weren't very good offensively on third down, and so we've got more work to do. It's a good win."
By the numbers
188: Rushing yards against Miami (Ohio)
199: Rushing yards against Troy
58: Rushing yards in first half against Miami (Ohio)
101: Rushing yards in first half against Troy
3: Rushing touchdowns by Wisconsin Saturday
5.7: Average yards per carry for Wisconsin against Troy
76.5: Completion percentage for redshirt senior quarterback Joel Stave against Troy
7: Number of receiving targets who caught a pass Saturday
3-of-10: Third-down conversions against Troy
34.3: Points per game Wisconsin's averaged through three games
Wisconsin deployed more of the same looks seen in the weeks prior. The Badgers used mostly 21 personnel -- two running backs and one tight end -- in a multitude of formations. That included utilizing wide receiver/safety hybrid Tanner McEvoy out of the shotgun in a wildcat look on his 32-yard touchdown run.
Tanner McEvoy takes the snap and runs in for a 32-yard @BadgerFootball TD! Brought to you by #GrubHub. http://t.co/Tcp6VFAhkz— Wisconsin on BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) September 19, 2015
Note in the personnel look how Stave is split wide left, with redshirt senior fullback Derek Watt split out far right. Wide receiver Alex Erickson was in the slot, and with nice blocking in front of him -- including those by both redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal and Watt, McEvoy found the end zone.
"I thought that really, his touchdown run was as much the competitive nature in him as much as it was physical," Chryst said. "We didn't do -- we haven't had him very involved in the throw game, but he still is able to give us something offensively, and certainly did defensively. We appreciate his approach to it."
22, 11 and 12 personnel were also used by offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph.
1. Establishing the run early. Ten of Wisconsin's first 12 plays were runs, and it was apparent early the Badgers would be able to physically get to the second level based on their zone-blocking and power schemes. You saw pulling by the offensive linemen on many of the early runs, which helped spring Deal and redshirt junior Dare Ogunbowale for sizable gains. The Badgers gained 68 yards on the ground in the first quarter on 12 carries.
Deal and Ogunbowale rushed for 84 and 77 yards, respectively, on the afternoon, in place of the injured Corey Clement.
2. Efficient Joel Stave. He only threw 17 passes this week, but the Badgers quarterback made the most of it, completing 13 of them for 202 yards. Through three games, the former walk-on has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 666 yards and six touchdowns passes, with only two interceptions. His passer efficiency this season: 150.9, and with 5,614 career passing yards, the Greenfield, Wis., native is just 13 yards shy of tying former Badgers quarterback Brooks Bollinger for third in school history.
3. Austin Traylor as a receiving target. Compared to last season, where Sam Arneson and Troy Fumagalli were targeted more than Traylor, the redshirt senior's stepped up in the passing game. Chryst noted how the Columbus, Ohio native would practice catching 100 balls a day in the offseason, and it's shown early in this season with two touchdown receptions.
4. Two minute drill offense. In the past two weeks, the offense has rolled on all cylinders with under four minutes left. Stave, in that time, is 11-for-14 for 196 yards with two touchdowns -- one passing and one rushing -- and no interceptions. That's led to 17 points for Wisconsin at the end of the first half in the past two games.
This week, the offense moved down the field out of 21 personnel, rather than 11 personnel out of the shotgun seen against the RedHawks a week prior. Even more impressive, Stave was 4-of-5 on that drive, connecting with his receivers on passes of 20, 21, 9 and 45 before scrambling for a four-yard touchdown to put the Badgers up 14-3 heading into halftime.
1. Third-down conversions. Chryst noted it in the press conference after the game the Badgers, at times, couldn't stay on the field, leaving their defense susceptible to a pace-based, fast-driven Troy offense (luckily, they bent but didn't break). For the season, Wisconsin is 18-for-40 (45 percent) in third-down situations after their 3-for-10 performance Saturday.
2. More points/style of victory? Maybe it's the five-touchdown favorite the Badgers were against the Trojans, and though the Badgers' offense looked as balanced as it's been in years in one game -- it wasn't, as Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal wrote, the most "picturesque" performance.
Then again, neither was Ohio State's this week against Northern Illinois.