The Good: What went well (OK, besides Jonathan Taylor)?
Owen Riese: The defense came to play. Other than a short-field touchdown and a coverage bust, the Owls were held to around 150 yards of offense. This unit is still fantastic. Rex Leonhard is doing well.
Neal Olson: Oh boy, this is a bit of a challenge. I can’t even say the Badgers were injury-free with Beau Benzschawel leaving the game. I’ll have to echo Owen’s thoughts about the defense. Nick Nelson showed why he was drawing such rave reviews during spring and fall practices. The miscommunications on deep balls is concerning, but overall nothing that cannot be fixed
Ryan Mellenthin: I will have to continue with the praise of the defense. FAU was held to under 250 total yards of offense and with the exception of DeAndre McNeal’s 63-yard touchdown reception, the unit as whole played very well. Nick Nelson made a huge pass break-up on what could have been another long reception and Leon Jacobs and T.J. Edwards both played stellar defense.
Jake Kocorowski: I really like the bounce back Chris James had from his Wisconsin debut a week prior. Carrying 16 times for 101 yards, the Pitt transfer was the right complement to Taylor in the Badgers’ offense. I know I may have been guilty of an unprecedented hype train after seeing him in the spring, but he showed why he could be an extremely valuable asset to Paul Chryst’s scheme.
The Bad: Where are there improvements to be made? There are a few.
Owen: The passing game was very hit-or-miss and the offense was very stagnant for large portions of the game. Against opponents better than Florida Atlantic, the offense can't be as absent as it was for big stretches of the game.
Neal: Coming up empty on the goal line against Florida Atlantic is a major disappointment. Chryst is too dynamic of a play caller to attempt four straight running plays with everyone in tight. This felt like a challenge to the offensive line to assert themselves over a defensive line they outweighed substantially. The fact they got stuffed is a bit alarming. The Owls will likely not be the best defensive team the Badgers face this season, so they can ill afford such lackluster outings by the offense.
Ryan: The biggest thing for me would be the ball security. Through two games, Wisconsin has four turnovers. While Wisconsin’s defense can force them with the best of them (turnover margin is even right now, after four takeaways against Utah State), as the season progresses, teams will be more and more likely to be able to cash in on Wisconsin’s turnovers. Another surprise was when Wisconsin was stuffed on 4th-and-goal. I was very surprised to not see Alec Ingold or Austin Ramesh get a chance at punching it in.
Jake: All are great answers. I’m still intrigued by the communication on this defense. A lot of talk after the game about the adjustments at halftime included the words communicate or communication. The potential for this defense is there, and the fact that they adapted quickly at halftime to only allow 50 yards in the final 30 minutes shows they’re capable of shut-down capabilities. They have racked up 18 tackles for loss in two games, so we’ll see what they can do on Saturday against a struggling BYU offense on the road.
Game balls. Taylor already gets one. Who ya got?
Owen: T.J. Edwards came to play against the Owls. He's really taken over as the leader of the defense since Jack Cichy’s injury, and the redshirt junior has been lowering the boom on unsuspecting victims.
Neal: Quintez Cephus’s stat line does not jump off the page. However, he has clearly established himself as the best, most consistent game-breaker in the passing game. Troy Fumagalli remains the safety value and go-to on third down, but Cephus brings the ability to stretch the defense vertically. His leaping grab on the under-thrown ball is an ability sorely lacking from Badgers receivers since Jared Abbrederis. He will not always have monster numbers, but his presence should do wonders to open up the offense as a whole.
Ryan: Fumagalli gets my game ball this week. The senior hauled in a career-high eight receptions and one score, coming up just short of his third career 100-yard game.
Jake: I listed them in my B5Q5Q on Sunday morning. For this one, I’ll go with inside linebacker Chris Orr. He led the team in tackles on Saturday (eight) and also recorded a sack. Right now, he leads the team through two games in that former category (15). He has certainly stepped up, along with Edwards and Ryan Connelly, to pick up the slack with Cichy out for the season.
BYU: What are the early keys to Wisconsin coming around with a road win?
Owen: The Badgers have to match the physicality the Cougars will bring early. Provo is a sneaky hostile environment, and the Badgers will have to earn a victory, and could come away with a loss if they're not careful.
Neal: As Owen noted, BYU is not a team to overlook despite the record and lackluster efforts. The Cougars always have a handful of NFL-caliber players on the roster and are no stranger to big-time college football. Wisconsin has been able to overcome some horrendous-looking turnovers in their home games, but giving the ball away on the road is a recipe for disaster, especially for this Badger team looking for 60 minutes of consistent play.
Ryan: Like I said previously, Wisconsin will need to improve their ball security against the Cougars. BYU is a team that could turn a Wisconsin turnover into points, especially in front of their home crowd. Also, BYU is going to be a hungry team sitting at 1–2, looking for a way to stop the bleeding and get back in the win column.
Jake: It sounds simple and cliché, but let’s be honest—if they avoid the mental errors and don’t beat themselves (penalties, drops, communication miscues), they should beat BYU. Yes, the Cougars faced the likes of Dave Aranda’s LSU defense and a ranked (coaches poll) Utah squad, but their offense did not look impressive (263 yards vs. the Utes). If they clean up their own mistakes, they should come out of Provo undefeated heading into the bye week.