The Wisconsin Badgers beat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the inaugural Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Wednesday afternoon, 42-28, thanks to an outstanding second half defensive effort that resulted in four interceptions. After the mayo euphoria subsided a bit, our writers gathered virtually to discuss the best moments from the game.
Here is what Bremen, Owen, Tyler, J.J., Ryan and Belz had to say:
Since the Duke’s Mayo Bowl trophy is broken and Paul Chryst has said that he wants everyone to have a piece of it, what would you do with your piece?
Bremen: Once I was out of NCAA eligibility so the feds couldn’t get me, I would sell it on Ebay or something.
Owen: Feels like a nice use as, like, a paperweight or something would be practical idk.
Tyler: I mean you have to put that in some sort of shrine or a safe. That is valuable hardware we are talking about there. A piece of Mayo Bowl Trophy from this dumbass season would go for a lot of money on the B5Q comment section. I’ll start the bidding at $500….
Belz: I would take it to a jeweler and see what we were working with first and foremost, I doubt the Duke’s Mayo Bowl Trophy Designer skimps on their trophies. Then either use the remnants to craft something cool, or hit up Facebook Marketplace/Ebay.
Ryan: I would display my piece in a glass case of some sort near the rest of my sports memorabilia. However, maybe a glass case wouldn’t be the best idea considering what happened to the glass trophy…you know, had they just made the damn thing out of mayo this wouldn’t have happened.
J.J.: Depending on the size I could see it making a nice neck chain piece, since those are all the rage these days in the dorms.
What adjustments did the Wisconsin defense make in the second half to force four (!!!!) interceptions?
Bremen: While the only sacks in the game occurred very much in garbage time, it looked like the Badgers got a little more rush on the quarterback in the second half and threw off Sam Hartman’s timing. I also think that after the first pick — a really well jumped route by Noah Burks — which sparked the defense and made the quarterback’s throws more tentative. The linebackers kind of sneaked into coverage, too, which Hartman didn’t seem ready for.
Owen: Well they realized they tried to throw a glance like 35 times in a row so they eventually rolled the coverage into opportunities to jump that throw, which it was clear was a huge priority for the Demon Deacons.
Tyler: The linebackers really got into coverage and disguised it well. Credit to Jim Leonhard for spotting the adjustment and making it in game. I wish another side of the football would do that more often…Sam Hartman did make it a little easy though. I mean a couple of those we’re pure gifts. It was fun to watch.
Belz: Like Owen mentioned, Wake ran the same pass-option play to death, and eventually Jim Leonhard and the Wisconsin secondary wizened up to stop it.
Ryan: The linebackers dropped back into coverage more, filling up the passing lanes, leaving Hartman with fewer places to go. Otherwise, the defense seemed to just watch his eyes more and he telegraphed a couple of those interceptions and all four were easy interceptions for Wisconsin to come away with.
J.J.: It looked like they did a better job of clogging Hartman’s vision and the Wake route trees, forcing him into harder throws. In addition I think some credit goes to the run defense for slowing down Wake’s option game in the second half, forcing them to become more one dimensional and riskier throwing the ball. Hartman threw a lot of gas today, so perhaps some misses were inevitable regardless of the defensive schemes, but it is worth applauding Noah Burks for stepping in and making a great play to start the avalanche of picks with the first of the game.
What needs to change in the play calling for next year based on the offensive game plan against Wake Forest?
Bremen: I think that this season was the only time we’ll see Joe Rudolph call plays. I can understand being hamstrung with a lack of attacking weapons and a young quarterback, but c’mon. It was rough to watch, and I think Paul Chryst will definitely take a look of it during the offseason. It might have felt like the right call considering the pandemic disrupting plans, but the results were not good.
Owen: While I get all of the issues people have with them, I’ve seen many **passive aggressively looks at everyone here** “I know he doesn’t have any personnel but come on” without any alternative ideas which,,,
I have a level of appreciation for how hard it can be to call plays when your personnel isn’t capable or confident in certain concepts so idk. Chryst can call plays again I guess.
Tyler: The man calling them needs to change. As I’ve said time and time again, fire Joe Rudolph’s play calling to the GD sun. Also, the signs need to change because if I have to watch Mertz run to the sideline every GD play next year I won’t make it through a whole season. I mean what the hell is that? Those two things change and we’ll be just fine.
Belz: I think Chryst will take it back over, but getting some healthy wide receivers is the most important thing for the team in 2021. Look at Wake Forest and the two talented wide-outs that they had, while the Badgers were relying on a 5-foot-7 walk-on to be the leading receiver. Joe Rudolph is a great offensive line coach, and could be a good play caller down the line, but I would imagine for optics purposes COACH Paul Chryst will likely resume those duties.
Ryan: Paul Chryst needs to take the reins back from Joe Rudolph. Rudolph is a phenomenal offensive line coach, but his play calling is sub-par at best. Wisconsin also needs to work signals back into the game, I know Mertz running to the sideline every play isn’t the end of the world, but it would be nice to see Wisconsin be able to speed things up a bit on offense and catch the defense off guard from time to time. With Mertz jogging back to the sideline each play, it allows the defense to sit back and relax for a moment between plays.
J.J.: I’ll say what everyone has said so far first- Paul Chryst needs to take the play calling reins back from Joe Rudolph. Aside from that I think the passing game needs to be expected to take a considerable jump forward- now that Mertz has a full season of experience under his belt and hopefully a healthy receiver core there can’t be any more excuses for such an anemic aerial attack. Also, feed Jalen Berger the ball more. Almost every time he’s touched the ball this season he’s been dangerous. Give him more reps, please.
Who gets your game balls on offense and defense for Wisconsin?
Bremen: Both fullbacks should get the game ball for scoring a third of the touchdowns, and it should have been half!! It looked like one of the runs that was called down at the inch line went in, but I’m also fullback biased. On defense, I think it’s gotta go to Jack Sanborn, who is everywhere around the football. It would’ve been safety Colin Wilder if he scored the pick six, but sadly he didn’t follow the blocking.
Owen: Defensively I’ll go Scotty Nelson. Happy for him to finish the year healthy and making plays. Offensively, I’d give it to Garrett Groshek or Jon Dietzen as like lifetime achievement awards as they ride off into the sunset. I don’t feel as though there is an obvious guy to give it to other than maybe Mertz, so give it to the old hats.
Tyler: The offense really didn’t have to do much so you have to give it to the fullbacks I think. John Chenal had a touchdown and on the two rushing touchdowns by Mertz the fullbacks we’re the ones doing the pushing to get him in there. On defense it’s Sanborn hands down. What a game. I hope he’s back next year.
Belz: I will go with the patchwork offensive line that was down multiple starters. The young guys played well and left Graham Mertz with plenty of time to throw. The running game was not great, but with how well the defense played the offense didn’t need to do much. On defense I will go with Jack Sanborn. Not only did he play extremely well as previously mentioned, he also is a leader on the defense and is vital for making the calls for the entire defense.
Ryan: Offensively, I have to agree with Tyler, John Chenal and Mason Stokke had great games, each scoring a touchdown and each paved the way on other scores as well. On defense, you have to give it to the Mayo King, Jack Sanborn, who was named MVP. His 11 tackles (two TFL) and his interception were a big part of the defense’s success.
J.J.: Agree with Bremen, Tyler, and Ryan on this one- I’d give my offensive game ball to the fullbacks, who were as bruising and powerful as ever and even got rewarded with a score each. Jack Sanborn gets my defensive MVP, following a stellar all-around performance, contributing in every facet of the game defensively.
Now that the season is over...what are you final thoughts on Wisconsin’s 2020 football campaign?
Bremen: This was a dumb season. It’s a real “what could have been” thought experiment for Badgers fans after the positive COVID tests post Illinois. I think that ruined any and all momentum after the great offensive performance and the offense was clearly off all year. I think one of the biggest takeaways is the performance of the young players. True freshmen Nick Herbig, Jalen Berger and Chimere Dike didn’t look at all out of place and will have the benefit of extra time because of this weird season. It’s time to look at the positives, get out the negatives (cough cough, Joe Rudoplh calling the offense) and hope that things get as back to normal as we can hope. We did end the season with keeping the Axe and winning, then breaking, the Mayo Bowl trophy. That’s a positive winning streak!
Owen: While this season was so difficult and no good and very bad, I’m over the moon for these players and coaches for having had the opportunity to play these games. As someone who was a part of a college football program who didn’t get the opportunity to play games this season and seeing how tough it was on the kids, I’m happy that UW got to play seven games, despite the obvious hurdles they needed to clear seemingly every week.
Tyler: Honestly what a stupid season it was. I am glad they played though. I think with the right perspective this was a growing season and sometimes you need those type of years. The Pinstripe Bowl was followed up by a Rose Bowl. Let’s hope a Mayo Bowl is followed up by something like that again. A lot of guys saw time, they developed, and I think that will set them up well for next year. This year was a long spring season for next year and I think it will greatly benefit them in 2021.
Belz: I’m just happy that the team was able to overcome the trials and tribulations that 2020 brought and go out with a couple good wins to end the season. You look at how many young guys were able to see the field this season and that will only pay dividends down the road. With potentially a semi-normal off-season upcoming, Wisconsin could see some of their young players really jump up and play well next year.
Ryan: Despite all the crap that happened this year, I am glad they were able to finish the season. The players got a chance to play and for those seniors that choose not to come back with the extra year of eligibility that was granted to them, this was their final chance to play collegiate football and the final chance for some of them to play football. The season itself was a roller coaster, with two huge wins to the start the season, then three dreadful losses, finally finished off with two straight wins. While the Mayo Bowl wasn’t what I had in mind prior to the season, or even as the season was going, I am glad Wisconsin was able to finish off this dreadful year on a high note…that is before they shattered the trophy…
J.J.: It was a great season to just write off entirely, to be quite honest. It was fun to enjoy Mertz looking like Overland Park Troy Aikman for a game against Illinois, and it was fun to watch a solid half season of football without any concerns over how outside games would affect Wisconsin’s potential playoff chances or ranking. We got to see some freshmen get their feet wet, and saw glimpses of a team that can grow a lot and achieve much bigger things. Even through a slog of an end to the regular season we were able to learn a few things- such as we need to appreciate Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor more, and Joe Rudolph cannot call plays. And in the end we got to close out with a rivalry win and a broken bowl trophy, something of a token metaphor for a year where the most inoffensive team in the College Football Playoff very well may be Notre Dame.