Welcome back to another edition of our B5Q roundtable sessions, where the points don’t count and we always fire Drew Hamm.
The now-No. 9/No.12 (AP/Coaches) Wisconsin Badgers dismantled and overwhelmed the Akron Zips in their 54-10 victory at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.
Our group of writers came together this weekend to discuss the non-conference win.
What key areas impressed you on Saturday?
Owen Riese: The front seven was its usual self. They shut down the run, other than two runs, and forced Akron to pass. The Badgers sat in a 2-4-5 nearly the entire game, and that allowed the secondary to do their thing, while the pass rush worked on irritating the Akron passing game. The defense feeds into one another, and once an opponent becomes one dimensional, it’s game over. It was encouraging to have T.J. Edwards back on the field, but truthfully, it might not matter who’s in at inside linebacker with the way this defense is playing. Edwards, Jack Cichy, Ryan Connelly, Leon Jacobs are all starting caliber players.
Kevin: The Badgers’ receiving core is what really impressed me against Akron on Saturday. For the first time since since 2011, when the Badgers had Jared Abbrederis and Nick Toon starting at wide receiver, it seems that Wisconsin has developed two legitimate weapons on the outside. Jazz Peavy played great, hauling in 7 catches for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Rob Wheelwright continues to look the part of a true number one receiver, adding 99 yards and a touchdown on 4 catches. Yes, it was against lowly Akron, but it was very encouraging to see two deep threats emerge at wide receiver, something the Badgers haven’t really had in years. Throw talented tight end Troy Fumagalli into the mix, and suddenly it looks like Bart Houston has plenty of reliable targets to throw to once Big Ten play rolls around.
Dylan Deich: The offensive line dominated from start to finish. They certainly should have against competition like Akron, but it’s encouraging to see the young group put things together so early in the season. As always, it starts with those five guys up front - 5.3 yards per carry and nearly 300 yards total for the game made Bart Houston’s job easier when he dropped back to find Peavy and Wheelwright.
Was the punt return by Akron the only really glaring mistake for the Badgers?
Owen: It was mitigated and somewhat forgotten after the success he had later, but in all reality Bart Houston could have thrown an interception on the first pass attempt. That’s not good. If he throws that pick, I know I’m speculating here, but Akron has momentum, one big offensive play, and suddenly the Badgers are fighting rather than dictating the tempo. The passing game needs to be more secure, although as the game went on, Houston improved.
Kevin: The punt return and a kickoff out of bounds were really the only glaring mistakes on Saturday, so some extra practice time on special teams should be expected. Overall, it’s hard to nitpick many problems in a 54-10 beat down, but I’m going to do it anyways. The run defense could have been a little bit better, as Warren Ball broke a couple of nice runs including a 38-yard scamper that was salvaged by an amazing strip fumble courtesy of Derrick Tindal Jr. The defensive line was a bit of a question mark heading into the season and needs to continue to improve with Michigan and Ohio State quickly approaching on the schedule. But again, the defense as a whole was dominant and Justin Wilcox has to be happy with the two turnovers Wisconsin forced.
Dylan: Kevin mentioned this play, but the tackling on the long run by Ball was poor. It’s only one play, but Ball ran through three-to-four tackles before Tindal made a terrific play and punched the ball out. This is digging deeper but the secondary also got off to a slow start — I thought Tindal and Sojourn Shelton could have found the ball in the air a little better. Those few points combined with the punt return give the Badgers a few things to build on heading into their final non-conference game.
Play of the Game?
Owen: After a bit of a let down, Corey Clement and the offense unable to punch it in from the 1, the Badgers’ defense responded quickly, recording a safety. T.J. Watt was able to force Thomas Woodson up in the pocket, and he ran right into the arms of Alec James. This was a huge momentum shift back to Wisconsin, who had lost it after failing to score on the lesser Akron defense. This play made it 9-0, and the Badgers punched it in on the ensuing possession, making it 16-0 and forcing the Zips to change the way they attacked the Badgers stop unit.
Kevin: I will go with the aforementioned strip fumble by Tindal in the second quarter. Wisconsin held a comfortable 16-0 lead but an impressive 38-yard run by Warren Ball put the Zips in a good spot to get some points. That is until Derrick Tindal channeled his inner Peanut Tillman, chased down Ball from behind, and punched the football out. Sojourn Shelton quickly scooped up the loose ball and gave possession back to the Badgers. The turnover swung momentum completely for Wisconsin, who then capitalized on the turnover with a nine play, 73-yard touchdown drive to put the game out of reach 23-0.
Nice Peanut Punch Derrick Tindal https://t.co/5ZtICAasx9— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) September 10, 2016
Dylan: Up 23-7 in the first half, Houston tossed a dime to Jazz Peavy for a touchdown. Peavy ran a post and beat his man for the 34-yard grab and his second touchdown of the day. For some of his questionable decisions at times, it was a nice reminder that Bart has a heck of an arm. It was also a breath of fresh air to see a wide receiver making some plays on Saturday. The play came directly after Corey Clement’s leg injury, so it took Wisconsin’s mind off that if only for a few moments.
UP NEXT: Georgia State. Any bold predictions for next week?
Owen: With the last cupcake coming up before the death row stretch in Wisconsin’s schedule, I expect the Badgers to be up big at halftime, and largely rest a lot of their starters. They’re going to need to be as healthy as possible heading to East Lansing. Hornibrook the entire second half, no Clement, or Biegel in the second half. Wisconsin will coast through the second half comfortably.
Kevin: Wisconsin will run for over 400 yards against the Panthers on Saturday. Even if Clement is held out with his leg injury, the combination of Dare Ogunbowale, Taiwan Deal, and freshman Bradrick Shaw is going to run all over a team that has surrendered 325 and 464 rushing yards against Ball State and Air Force the past two weeks, respectively.
#Badgers' next foe, Georgia State, is last in nation in run D (394.5 ypg) and time of possession (19:25). Uh-oh.— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) September 12, 2016
Dylan: The student section will be full by halftime. Joking aside, I’m going to piggyback off Kevin’s answer - the Badgers will have three different players run for 100+ yards. The offensive line will continue to dominate and the Badger backs will have plenty of room to run against Georgia State.