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Grading Wisconsin’s, uh, display against Penn State

The Badgers lost 16-10 on Saturday and only half of the team looked decent.

Penn State v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Rubric - Wisconsin Football Unit Grades

Grade Description - accounting for degree of difficulty
Grade Description - accounting for degree of difficulty
A Excellent: Top-5 level performance
B Very good: Top-tier Big Ten performance
C Acceptable: Average for the Big Ten
D Unacceptable: Below average for the Big Ten
F Failure: Rutgers level performance
N/A Insufficient evidence for a grade

Offense: D

QB: D-
O-line: C-


The offense looked putrid for most of the game. There were mistakes, most of them in the red zone and most of them made by quarterback Graham Mertz.

The Badgers were 1-of-4 on scoring attempts in the red zone and turned the ball over twice there too. Danny Davis and Jake Ferguson had nice games catching the ball and running back Chez Mellusi showed flashes running it. The offensive line didn’t play great.

Defense: A-

Pass rush: A-
Pass coverage: C+
Run defense: A


Outside of forcing a turnover, there isn’t much more you could ask out of Wisconsin’s front seven and pass rush. They were great and should continue to be great all season.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Free safety Scott Nelson had a number of blown coverages that allowed Jahan Dotson and Penn State to take the top off the defense. PSU had three completions of 40+ yards on the day. Wisconsin still held Penn State to under 300 total yards and 50 yards rushing.

Special Teams: B-

Kicking: C
Punting: B+
Returning: N/A
Coverage: B-


The blocked field goal was inexplicable, but Collin Larsh made up for it with his 43-yarder later in the game. Andy Vujnovich looked solid punting the ball, downing two of his five punts inside the 20, and the coverage teams were sound. There wasn’t much to speak of in terms of Wisconsin’s return game so, yay?

Coaching: C-

Strategy: C
Adjustments: C-
Play-calling: C-


It was nice to see the TE Middle Screen play come back into the repertoire. However, in Paul Chryst’s triumphant return to play calling there wasn’t much else to note that was positive.

Penn State made adjustments at halftime to get the ball to the outside more on offense while Wisconsin just kept kind of assuming that the same thing was going to work even though it didn’t in the first half. To be fair to Chryst, if Mertz hits a wide open Chimere Dike for a touchdown on the final drive we’re probably not having as serious a discussion.

Overall grade: C

Unit Grades: C+
Big plays: C-
Game Control: B
Penalties & Discipline: C


Looks like we might be in for another edition of Great Defense, Not Great Offense in Madison. What’s funny (haha, I’m not mad, actually I’m laughing) is that Wisconsin controlled the ball for so much of the game (42:51 to 17:09) and just couldn’t score. Bad game for the Badgers, but they should bounce back quickly against Eastern Michigan next weekend.