MADISON — On Saturday night under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium, the Wisconsin Badgers (3-3 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) outlasted the Army Black Knights (4-2 overall), 20-14, aided by a late forced fumble by Leo Chenal.
Chenal led all players with 17 tackles (eight solo, nine assisted), to go along with his game-securing strip sack.
With just under five minutes remaining in the game Wisconsin, who was nursing a six-point lead and facing fourth-and-13 at the Army 35, decided to punt the ball away and lean on its defense.
Following back-to-back rushes by Army, the Black Knights were facing third-and-four and that was where Wisconsin’s defense came through big, forcing its first turnover of the game. Chenal sacked Jabari Laws forcing the ball out, which was then recovered by Keeanu Benton at the one-yard line.
“I ran through, they cut block me like they do, I got up again and I just charged the quarterback as fast as I could, lowered my shoulder and I thought he threw the ball away,” said Chenal. “I was sitting there, looking around confused and I saw a herd of red swarm right by the goal-line and I’m like what just happened, like was that me?”
Following the strip sack, Wisconsin was then able to put the game out of reach, as Graham Mertz scored on a QB-keeper, his second rushing touchdown of the game.
In what was a game that was only slowed down by Big Ten Network’s numerous media timeouts, what with most of the offense coming on the ground, the teams combined for only 20 total pass attempts, with Army not throwing the ball until the third quarter.
Laws was 4-for-5 in the game, for 87 yards and while he did not throw the ball often, he was effective, likely because Wisconsin was not expecting a pass from the rush-heavy Army offense. Laws’ first pass of the game was completed for 34 yards and his last was completed for 36 yards, which setup Army’s second score of the game.
Mertz, who scored twice with his legs was 8-for-15 for 112 yards, completing passes to four different receivers, including Jake Ferguson, who caught four passes for 58 yards and extended his consecutive game streak to 40 games.
Danny Davis also had two receptions for 48 yards, including a 36-yard acrobatic catch with the defender hanging all over him, after not touching the ball the last two games.
However, as expected, both teams did their fair share of running the ball, as we saw 93 rushing attempts for a total of 377 rushing yards.
Army entered the game second in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 318.2 yards per game, while Wisconsin was first in the nation in rushing defense, allowing a paltry 41.4 yards per game. The Black Knights ran the ball 50 times for 179 yards, which was good for a 3.6 yard average, while Wisconsin ran the ball 43 times for 198 yards.
With the emphasis being on the rushing the attack, Army and Wisconsin drew about even with time of possession, with Wisconsin having a slight edge at 30:00—28:59.
“Coach put it like this, they’re going to try to bleed you slow, and we just couldn’t let them do that,” said Benton. “We just gotta keep fresh bodies in, we didn’t have that many plays in the first half, but as long as we’re staying fresh and not letting them bleed us and staying aggressive and putting the pressure on them, we was going to be fine.”
Top Plays vs. Army pic.twitter.com/YPTYA7pxBh— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 17, 2021
Army’s 50 rushes and 179 yards were both lows for the Black Knights this season, with their previous lows coming in their last game, a 28-16 loss to Ball State (61 rushes, 213 yards).
Freshman Braelon Allen led all rushers in the game, registering his second-consecutive 100-yard game, rushing 16 times for 108 yards. Allen got the scoring started in the game, with a 33-yard rushing touchdown, his third of the season.
Option quarterback Tyhier Tyler led the Army ground attack, with 17 rushes for 90 yards and one touchdown.
With Wisconsin up 13 in the waning minutes of the game, Army marched down the field on a seven-play, 77-yard scoring drive, that was capped off by A.J. Howard’s six-yard rushing touchdown to bring the game back within one score.
Following the score, Army attempted an onside kick, but Jack Sanborn was there to cover it up and secure the win for Wisconsin.
Not only did Sanborn end Army’s chances, he also had himself quite the night, registering 12 tackles (eight solo, four assisted). Sanborn was also active in all facets of the game – Sanborn downed one of Andy Vujnovich’s punts on the nine-yard line and he even converted a fourth down, with an eight-yard rush, on a fake punt in the second quarter.
The Badgers hit the road again next weekend and will take on a Purdue team that just dominated No. 2 Iowa. The game airs at 2 p.m. CT on BTN.