Welcome back to another session of the B5Q roundtable.
The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the previously undefeated Western Michigan Broncos 24-16 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Monday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Wisconsin (11-3) held Western Michigan (13-1) to season lows in total yards and points while receiving solid production from its redshirt junior tight end and outgoing redshirt senior quarterback. Not to mention, UW won the turnover battle against one of the nation’s best programs in turnover margin.
B5Q assembled its team of writers for a two-part discussion on the win and what it means to a successful 2016 season.
THE GOOD: What went well for Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan?
Owen Riese: The Badgers had a perfect balance in this game that kept an inferior but hungry Western Michigan defense guessing. The play calling was phenomenal, and the seniors played a huge part in their final game, which is always fun to see.
Drew Hamm: The only incomplete pass was a dropped touchdown. I think that means the passing game (!!!) went well for the Badgers.
Can we also talk about that Austin Ramesh fullback sweep to salt the game away for a second? It was amazing and probably the most Wisconsin way to win a major bowl game. It’s good to be #onbrand for national TV appearances.
There's a fullback play. #Badgers— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) January 2, 2017
Jon Beidelschies: The Badgers executed their game plan and did not beat themselves. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but it is meant in the best possible way. Quarterback play was solid. The offense did not turn the ball over. The defense did not let Corey Davis or any of the other Western Michigan weapons beat them over the top. Special teams executed. Everyone played within themselves (#coachspeak), and the result was a high-profile win against a really solid team.
Jake Kocorowski: I’ll go with the obvious pick: the play of tight end Troy Fumagalli. The former walk-on earned offensive MVP honors, and like he started his 2016 season with seven receptions for 100 yards, he ended it with a bang by leading the team with six receptions for a game-high 83 yards and that spectacular touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Five of his six catches went for either first downs or six points, and four of his receptions were on third down. Wisconsin found a mismatch against the Western Michigan defense, and it will be interesting to see what’s in store for Fumagalli in his senior campaign.
THE BAD: What didn’t go well against the Broncos?
Owen: Despite the media being lazy and using old narratives, the offensive line still isn't very good (relative to former UW offensive lines). Left tackle Ryan Ramczyk is a stud and center Michael Deiter is good, but the rest are still developing and struggled at times during this game. I wouldn’t be shocked if any of the redshirted freshmen from this season push for and get playing time next season over these older guys.
Drew: *puts on national media member hat* “These brawny, corn-fed Wisconsin boys sure can move a pile and put a hurt on opposing defenses!” *Corey Clement stopped in backfield again* “Let’s just compare the Wisconsin offensive line’s size to the Cowboys. Holy cow! They’re huge!” *Corey Clement gains one yard after breaking tackle in backfield*
Also, wide receivers only caught three passes. On the other hand, wide receivers ran the ball quite well. Fumble luck was also not going Wisconsin’s way. *shakes fist at Lady Luck*
Jon: This is an extension of Owen’s point, but the running game really sagged at times. After starting the game with some explosive runs, WMU figured some things out in second quarter which shut down the internal run game. The edge was there, particularly early (god I love the jet sweep), but the internal push disappeared at long stretches, particularly in the second half.
I’ll leave the in-depth analysis to the guys who know Xs and Os better than I do, but I don’t think this line ever really learned how to block the screen. Without it (and without the play action, which also disappeared repeatedly throughout the season) Paul Chryst’s toolbox was limited in shaking up the short-yardage game.
Jake: I’ll agree that the offensive line didn’t necessarily play as effectively as I originally thought heading into the game (Western Michigan recorded eight tackles for loss and the run game stalled at times as mentioned earlier), but Wisconsin’s rushing attack has improved this season considerably and is a key reason why the offense has looked more dynamic since the Ohio State game.
I’ll focus on two things: uncharacteristic penalties and third-down conversions. Wisconsin came in as the second-least penalized team in the nation after Navy. Against the Broncos, the Badgers were assessed five penalties for 35 yards. It ultimately didn’t matter, but three false starts against the offense could have stalled progress. The offensive pass interference negated a first down that could have had significant implications.
The Broncos converted five of 11 third downs, and though it was below their season average of 54.2 percent, Wisconsin gave up more than its average of nearly 27 percent allowed. WMU had three drives of over five minutes, two nearly nine minutes long.