clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wisconsin Football offensive grades: Badgers dominate offensively in statement win against Purdue

Wisconsin found a balance offensively in Week 8 en route to an important 35-24 conference victory.

Purdue v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers had their biggest statement win of the year, defeating the Purdue Boilermakers at Camp Randall Stadium in Jim Leonhard’s first game at home as a head coach.

After an inconsistent offensive performance a week ago, in which the Badgers couldn’t establish consistency in the second half, offensive coordinator Bobby Engram dialed up a balanced gameplan that remained sustainable through four quarters.

Here are the offensive grades against Purdue:

Quarterback: B+

When looking at the stat sheet, Graham Mertz’s 62% completion rate and 203 passing yards may not seem like a dominant performance, but the quarterback did his part in managing the balanced offensive attack on Saturday.

Last weekend, the Badgers dropped back just twice on first down in the first half, which resulted in a stale and predictable offense after early success on the ground, allowing Michigan State to come back and take momentum.

The tables turned in Week 8 as Mertz completed 5/5 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown on first down in the first half, which, in return, opened up the running game for the majority of the game.

While Mertz only saw two dropbacks on first down in the second half, which were both incompletions, the damage was already done, as Wisconsin built on a strong opening drive with 21 first-quarter points.

The offense has yet to be consistent through four quarters this season, but Saturday’s performance was a step in the right direction.

Mertz made several good passes, completing six throws of 15+ yards, while delivering on shot plays to Skyler Bell early.

Mertz still bails on pockets too early at times before allowing plays to develop while missing on a few throws, but his play is trending in the right direction at a time when Wisconsin needs its quarterback to develop some consistency.

Having a healthier offensive line should provide for better protection as well following the bye week, making Mertz’s job easier.

Purdue v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Running Backs: A

Braelon Allen benefitted from the presence of a downfield passing attack, as the star running back rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

Allen’s issues of hesitancy in weeks past weren’t present nearly as often. Instead, the true sophomore consistently hit the holes in the running game, utilizing his strength to muscle for extra yards on several opportunities.

With the approach he showcased on Saturday, Allen wasn’t necessarily specifically looking for that home-run play, but instead running with decisiveness and looking to get positive yardage.

As a result, ironically, the tailback saw carries of 14 and 41 yards, with the former resulting in a touchdown run.

The combination of a healthy offensive line and Allen’s improvements in decision-making created a strong force on the ground on Saturday that should only get better following the bye.

Backup running back Isaac Guerendo made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 72 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, while breaking away for a 54-yard touchdown with his speed on a play.

Guerendo has the best speed on the team, which has led to his contributions as Wisconsin’s kick returner, but hasn’t been utilized nearly as much as he should be in the running game.

Instead, the Badgers have continued to increase Allen’s workload, which potentially led to his injury in the second half of the game this week. Allen returned to finish the game.

Additionally, the Badgers have run mainly inside-zone concepts with Guerendo as the tailback, erasing his main component of speed and creating more opportunities for injury.

I’ve been clamoring for Wisconsin to increase Guerendo’s usage out of the backfield, as he provides a different element out of the backfield, while keeping Allen’s legs fresh.

They did on Saturday, and reaped the benefits with a 54-yard touchdown that put the game away for good.

Allen and Guerendo is a strong 1-2 punch out of the backfield and should continue to carry Wisconsin’s offense following the bye, even when Chez Mellusi returns from injury. They deserve an “A” grade against Purdue.

Wide Receivers: A-

Skyler Bell had his second big game of the season, catching four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Serving as Wisconsin’s secondary target to Chimere Dike, Bell saw much of his work on shot plays from play-action opportunities where he capitalized on 1-on-1 opportunities and crosser routes.

After two deep catches early, Bell showcased his yards after the catch(YAC) ability, taking a six-yard pass from Mertz into an 18-yard gain for a first down.

With Bell, Wisconsin finally has a secondary target that has showcased they can step up when defenses focus on Dike, providing multiple consistent options for Mertz in the passing game.

Bell now has just one drop in his past four games.

Chimere Dike caught three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown on six targets, serving as Wisconsin’s highest-targeted receiver on Saturday.

Mertz and Dike connected on a deep 20-yard pass on a corner route, which occurred during one of the quarterback’s first-down completions in the first half.

The duo appeared to have a miscommunication on a slot fade in the third quarter where the junior quarterback threw a ball behind his top receiver, while misfiring on a similar route in the endzone later in the game.

Dike was also called for a holding penalty on a Braelon Allen carry, backing up the Badgers on a drive where they eventually punted.

Keontez Lewis and Mertz couldn’t connect efficiently on Saturday, with the receiver catching just one pass for six yards on three targets.

Overall, the receivers, specifically Skyler Bell, didn’t drop any passes, while playing a vital role in creating an offensive balance that allowed for an efficient offense in the air and on the ground, hence the A- grade.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Tight Ends: C+

Once again, the tight ends didn’t have a big impact on the game, with the only target going to tight end Jaylan Franklin.

The position group, which was already depleted heading into the week, faced even more health issues as Cole Dakovich missed Saturday’s game with a leg injury, while Hayden Rucci remained out.

That left Jack Eschenbach and Franklin as the primary tight ends, which were Wisconsin’s third and fifth-string players at the position at the beginning of the season.

As a result, Wisconsin continued to involve offensive linemen as jumbo tight ends in certain packages to alleviate their depth issues.

Two weeks ago, former Badgers tackle Logan Brown filled that role, while Tyler Beach, who was nursing a left ankle sprain, was re-incorporated as the extra jumbo tight end against Michigan State.

This week, it was Riley Mahlman and Tanor Bortolini who fulfilled that role.

Franklin’s lone target resulted in a 19-yard catch up the seam on a well-designed play from Bobby Engram, but the tight ends didn’t see any other target other than that.

But, with no negative plays, the unit earns a C+ grade for the week.

Offensive Line: B+

After some shaky performances due to several injuries along the offensive line, Wisconsin’s front five compiled a fairly strong performance on Saturday.

The offensive line had primarily struggled to create holes in the running game in weeks past, which is vital to Braelon Allen’s approach, but that wasn’t the case against Purdue as the Badgers ran for 7.3 yards per carry.

Additionally, the holes created resulted in big-play opportunities for the running backs, as Allen ran for a 41-yard gain early in the game, while Isaac Guerendo rushed for a 54-yard touchdown that gave Wisconsin a 35-10 lead.

While the offensive line gave up two sacks, they primarily gave Graham Mertz enough time to operate from the pocket, which resulted in six plays of 15+ yards through the air.

Tyler Beach, who had been nursing a left ankle sprain, returned to the starting lineup, and despite a new front five, the cohesion between the starting unit was still strong.

This Wisconsin offense will go where their offensive line will take them. This week, their good performance led to a strong, balanced attack.

With the bye week allowing for bruised bodies to heal and re-establish cohesion amongst the unit, the offensive line should continue to improve over the second half of the season.