GREEN BAY, Wis. — What a game.
With oddsmakers and gamblers betting against them, with their former defensive coordinator scheming against them, and facing a Heisman Trophy candidate, the Wisconsin Badgers upset the No. 5 LSU Tigers at the Lambeau Field College Classic on Saturday.
There’s plenty to digest from this game, which was hardly pretty from start to finish. All that matters, though, is the score, and the fact Wisconsin starts the season 1–0 after knocking off the No. 5 team in the nation.
Here are three quick things we learned from the Badgers’ win—more to come after the locker-room media availability:
1. Wisconsin’s defense can be relied upon to carry the team if needed
Despite running back Leonard Fournette gaining 138 yards on 23 carries, outside linebacker Vince Biegel and the Badgers’ defense held the Tigers to 257 yards total on the afternoon. LSU quarterback Brandon Harris completed just 12 of 21 passes for 131 yards and two interceptions. That last turnover sealed the game with D’Cota Dixon snagging Harris’ last pass attempt.
LSU converted only two of 10 third-down attempts on the afternoon and was forced into three total turnovers. Inside linebackers Jack Cichy and Ryan Connelly (who filled in for Chris Orr after he left with a leg injury) combined for 15 tackles, while outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel contributed seven and four tackles, respectively.
Also give credit to the defensive line that ate up blocks and didn’t allow LSU’s offensive line to dominate the game as it could have.
Wisconsin’s offense looks recharged with an efficient rushing effort and the tight ends re-emerging in the passing game, but the strength of this team will, just like 2015, again be its front seven.
2. "Troy Fumagalli, all-conference tight end" could be a reality
Redshirt junior tight end Troy Fumagalli was derailed by injuries early in 2015, but rebounded to catch 28 passes last season. He’s a quarter of the way to that through one game in 2016, grabbing seven receptions for 100 yards in Saturday’s win.
Fumagalli mentioned during the spring how he wanted to be an all-conference tight end this season. His play on Saturday showed signs of a breakthrough season. He plowed through a defender on a tight end screen for a first down, and his 27-yard reception from quarterback Bart Houston in the third quarter sparked Wisconsin’s lone touchdown drive.
Paul Chryst’s pro-style offense has generated many talented tight ends, from Owen Daniels to Travis Beckum and Lance Kendricks. Fumagalli can be a legitimate threat in the passing game and could be on his way to being the next in the line.
3. Special teams for the Badgers held their own
Junior kicker Rafael Gaglianone looks like his freshmen self, and then some. He converted all three field-goal attempts, including the game-winning 47-yard field goal.
Walk-on punter P.J. Rosowski punted well (after his first 22-yard attempt) and showed why he earned the kickoff specialist job over Andrew Endicott, nailing three touchbacks in four attempts and nullifying anything the Tigers could attempt. According to Chryst post-game, they knew all along that the Stoughton, Wis., native would punt in the game.
EXTRA: The atmosphere for the game was electric
This is small, but must be noted. From LSU fans arriving in Wisconsin a week to a few days early, to College Gameday in the morning and the atmosphere inside the stadium, this is what college football should be about. Yes, it would have been nice to play a home-and-home against LSU in Baton Rouge and Madison, but Lambeau Field brought together two energetic and faithful fan bases in a historic setting.