The Good: For one last look back, what went well vs. Purdue?
Owen Riese: They accumulated a ton of yards. That was cool. The defense? Pretty good. Overall, Wisconsin performed pretty poorly but found a way to gut out a win.
Kevin O’Connell: The offensive line continues to look awesome and halfway through the season, it has been the engine that makes the offense run. As long as the Badgers can stay healthy up front, they should continue to see enormous success on the ground. However, a big test awaits on Nov. 18 vs. Michigan, who trots out arguably the best defensive line in college football.
Jake Kocorowski: Has to be the defensive effort. Limiting Purdue to 221 total yards and keeping the Boilermakers out of the end zone (nine points altogether) while defending short fields after turnovers and blocking a punt were the ingredients to keeping Wisconsin undefeated. This is a top-10 unit will take the team far.
Game Balls: Who earned them vs. Purdue?
Owen: Leon Jacobs has been phenomenal this season, and he was again on Saturday. The game-winning pick was a good play by a linebacker.
Kevin: Quintez Cephus. I know it’s been said before, but the redshirt sophomore wide receiver has added a new element to Wisconsin’s passing attack. He is playing like a legitimate No. 1 option and was great against the Boilermakers, finishing with five catches for 100 yards and his fifth touchdown of the year.
Jake: Let’s go with Jonathan Taylor. Another 200-yard rushing effort, another long touchdown run, and (again) another Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor. The first-year phenom is quickly racking up accolades and also some Heisman buzz, yet he’s handling the attention remarkably well, a sign of maturity for his age.
The Bad: Definitely things to clean up as the season moves on. What stands out to you as most pressing?
Owen: Mistakes. Not so much any individual person, but as a collective. Fumbles, special teams miscues—they’ve all got to be cleaned up against better teams.
Kevin: Simply put, Alex Hornibrook needs to be better if this is going to be a special season for Wisconsin. The redshirt sophomore has had some great moments through six games, but he was shaky against the Boilermakers and threw two crucial interceptions in Purdue territory. Hornibrook still lacks any sort of pocket presence when a rush is felt and has a tendency to under-throw pass catchers. He will need to improve down the stretch in order for the Badgers to become a championship-level football team.
Jake: The turnovers and the punt block were problematic. I’m going to focus on the penalties, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. They can stifle drives and take potential points off of the board. The four false starts on the offense can be corrected, and David Edwards owned the two assessed against him. It should be interesting how the offense responds against a Maryland defense that’s among the worst in the conference.
UP NEXT: Maryland. 1) Are crab cakes even good? 2) What will be the key match-ups for the Badgers on Homecoming weekend?
Owen: 1. Duh. 2. Maryland is on its, like, 18th quarterback, so stopping the run will be paramount.
Kevin: 1. Absolutely. 2. Maryland is a very poor defensive team and gave up nearly 300 yards passing to quarterback Clayton Thorson and Northwestern last weekend. I expect to see plenty of play-action and a bounce-back game from tight end Troy Fumagalli, who finished with zero catches against Purdue. On the defensive side of the ball, the secondary will be tested by wide receiver D.J. Moore. The junior leads the Big Ten in receiving yards, and despite a third-string quarterback throwing him the ball, exploded for 12 catches and 210 yards against Northwestern.
Jake: 1. I’m a picky eater, so no. Yuck. Ugh. Eww.
2. Defensively, they have to contain Moore and Ty Johnson, and Wisconsin’s players know the speed Maryland possesses on this side of the ball. Moore should be an intriguing match-up for Derrick Tindal, Nick Nelson, and Dontye Carriere-Williams depending on where they place the NFL-caliber wide receiver. On the offensive side of the ball, Wisconsin should run a lot. Maryland gives up over 174 yards per game on the ground, third-worst in the conference, and also is worst against the pass. I think the general formula of running the ball with the likes of Taylor and Bradrick Shaw, then the combination of Hornibrook to Fumagalli, Cephus, and company should get the offense rolling.
That is, unless turnovers, penalties, and botched plays derail any consistency.