The No. 18/No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers improved to 3-1 on the 2015 season Saturday night, rushing for a season-high 326 yards in a 28-0 win over the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Camp Randall Stadium.
The combination of Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale, filling in for the injured Corey Clement for most of the upcoming Big Ten Conference schedule, combined for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Both averaged 5.7 yards per carry and found holes through an inverted wishbone look.
Wisconsin controlled the clock, holding the ball for 39:47 and rushing 54 times. Joel Stave completed 14 of 23 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown to redshirt senior tight end Austin Traylor. The offense racked up 512 yards total against an overmatched Hawaii defense.
The Badgers for the third straight game did not allow a touchdown, holding the Warriors to 255 total yards. Through three games, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's squad has held opponents to only three points.
Our writers discuss Wisconsin's final tune-up for conference play and what to look forward to against Iowa.
The Good: What went well vs. Hawaii?
Neal Olson: Deal will be the obvious choice here. His decision making was improved and he showed patience waiting for the hole to open as well as demonstrating a nice burst through space. I thought it was a good sign of things to come.
That being said, I would temper that expectation with the qualifier that Hawaii looked pretty uninterested in tackling the bigger Badger backs. I'm not sure I remember a time when a running back did not finish a run falling/carrying the pile forward an additional yard or two. Needless to say Iowa won't be so reluctant to physical play.
Curt Hogg: Deal. Ogunbowale. The offensive line dominating the Hawaii front seven. You could pencil in each run for around 4-to-6 yards each carry. The Badgers didn't miss a beat without Clement yesterday.
On the other side, things went well with the front line in particular. Hawaii ran for 15 yards on 18 carries in a system predicated on spreading out the Badgers. The secondary was beat at times, but but kept the Warriors contained.
Kevin O'Connell: It looks like the Badgers can survive without Clement, as both Deal and Ogunbowale had productive games on the ground. The offensive line continued to improve, and Stave had a turnover-free night. Paul Chryst's offense looks to be hitting its stride at just the right time heading into Big Ten play.
The defense looked dominant once again, allowing no touchdowns for the third straight game. Hawaii could not run the ball all night and the front seven looks poised to have another big game against Iowa next week.
The Bad: What worried you about the Badgers' performance?
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Neal: As Curt notes below, the playing calling is still heavily on the conservative side. At the quarter mark of the season, it is past as a one or two game anomaly, and definitely full blown trend. Perhaps the coaching staff is still reluctant to open the playbook with inexperience at nearly every offensive position except quarterback.
Despite some solid performances, Deal and Ogunbawale have not shown the game breaking ability we have seen in the past from Melvin Gordon, or what was expected from Corey Clement. In order for Wisconsin to reach the Big Ten Championship Game for a second consecutive season, the offense will need to find some big play ability. I would rather have seen those chances taken in non-conference games, but there is still plenty of time.
Curt: Any worry would be nitpicking after an all-around solid performance. In the first half, the Badgers offense stalled between touchdowns. Paul Chryst has also shown a tendency to play conservative in short yardage fourth downs in opposing territory, so, depending on who you are, that could be worrisome.
Kevin: I agree with Curt and Neal that the play calling has been somewhat predictable and conservative, especially on third down. I would have liked to see Wisconsin try out some different things against a lesser opponent like Hawaii, and the Badgers will struggle in Big Ten games if the play calling continues to be too predictable.
MVP: Who shined the brightest for Wisconsin?
Neal: Picking anyone other than Taiwan Deal would seem to be an unnecessary exercise in trying to be too clever. I'll stick with Deal.
Curt: Deal's 26 carries for 147 yards was worthy of my game MVP award. The coaching staff continues to show increased trust in Deal, a redshirt freshman, who continues to look better with each run. He showed more balance and vision to compliment his power.
Kevin: Deal is the obvious choice, but I'll go a different direction and choose senior outside linebacker Joe Schobert. Schobert finished the game with two sacks and was all over the field, helping the Badgers hold Hawaii to only 15 yards on the ground.
Up Next: Iowa. What are your early keys for the Badgers' first conference game and pivotal divisional matchup?
Neal: Iowa's quaterback C.J. Beathard has been a surprise so far this season. He has thrown for 962 yards and six touchdowns to go with 151 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. You only need to go back to the Big Ten Championship game last season to see what type of effect a dual threat quarterback attack has on the Badger defense.
It will be key for Wisconsin to limit Beathard and the Hawkeye's offense to few scoring opportunities. With the offense having yet to show the big strike ability, if the Badgers fall behind at all it may prove challenging to muster enough offense to come back.
Curt: Wisconsin has gone 7-for-20 on third downs in the last two games against what looks to be a strong Iowa defense. The Hawkeyes have the fourth rush defense in the Big Ten, so it could come down to Stave and company's ability to extend drives.
Kevin: I think this is a big game for the defense, which really hasn't been tested in three straight weeks. As Neal mentioned, Beathard has looked impressive through the first four games, including two against power-five schools, and Wisconsin needs to keep him in check to come out on top. I think we'll learn a lot about the defense next week and whether they are stout enough to carry the Badgers through the Big Ten schedule.