With poor weather conditions, the Badgers needed to dominate the trenches to give themselves an advantage, which is exactly what happened in a 23-10 win over the Terrapins.
Here are the defensive grades for the Badgers in Week 10.
Defensive Line: A
Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig were the stars for the day, with the former recording a sack, two run stops, and a tackle for loss, while the latter had two sacks and three tackles for loss, along with a pass breakup at the line of scrimmage.
Benton made his presence known in the middle, earning a crucial fourth-down sack, while pressuring the quarterback and taking up space as an interior defender at the line of scrimmage.
Herbig, on the other hand, was dominant along the edge, setting the edge well, but wreaking havoc as a pass-rusher, forcing the Terrapins to alter their offensive approach, which didn’t work.
But, C.J. Goetz deserves credit as well, as the veteran was vital in the run game, setting his edge well, which had been an area where opposing offenses targeted in the run game.
As a result, the Terrapins were stopped to four yards per carry, excluding sacks.
Goetz also had a coverage sack on Taulia Tagovailoa, displaying good motor on the play.
James Thompson Jr., who has filled in for Isaiah Mullens in recent weeks, had two run stops on his own. Thompson has continued to grow with increased snaps and should be an important cog on the defensive line in 2023.
Jordan Turner’s athleticism was showcased on Sunday, as he was assigned as the spy on Taulia Tagovailoa on three different occasions, chasing the scrambling quarterback on third downs and forcing fourth downs on each chance.
Turner also executed a well-timed linebacker blitz, which forced an incompletion from Tagovailoa, while recording a run stop as well, filling in his gap properly.
Turner isn't the best linebacker in coverage. That’s noted. But, his contributions in the run game and as a situational pass-rusher given his athleticism have been important for the Badgers this season.
Jake Chaney has earned himself a significant role in Wisconsin’s linebacker rotation, and earned three run stops on Saturday, showcasing his growth since the beginning of the season.
Chaney did take a poor angle on a running play early in the game, but continues to improve and make impact plays when his number is called.
Maema Njongmeta was effective as a pass-rusher(notice a trend?) on Saturday, forcing an incompletion on a rep, while sacking Tagovailoa on a first down in the fourth quarter off yet another blitz.
With three linebackers that have proven to be effective against the run and as pass-rushers, the Badgers are building a strong corps that should continue to develop.
Alexander Smith has been a huge addition for the Badgers since he returned from a hamstring injury a few weeks ago.
Racking up another start against Maryland, Smith has been Wisconsin’s best cornerback thus far, and that didn’t change on Saturday, as there were no big plays allowed from the defensive backs.
Additionally, UCLA transfer Jay Shaw has slowly found his footing at the position for the Badgers after some early growing pains, which has been vital in shutting down both sides of the field defensively.
Shaw showcased his tackling ability on Saturday, despite his smaller 5’9 frame, which limited yards after the catch: a norm against the Badgers this season.
Wisconsin continues to rotate Shaw and Toledo transfer Justin Clark, who has quietly enjoyed an underrated season and has a serious argument as Wisconsin’s second-best cornerback behind Smith.
Regardless, it’s good to know that Wisconsin has three players that have proven to be dependable at cornerback, which was a weakness for the team this season.
Hunter Wohler’s presence was greatly welcomed this weekend, as the sophomore safety contributed on multiple levels against Maryland.
Wohler had an incredible interception, reading Taulia Tagovailoa’s eyes from the box and pouncing over the middle for the pick deep in Maryland territory.
Additionally, Wohler had a significant run stop on 3rd & short, while making another nice tackle on a two-yard pass in the second quarter.
Wohler’s versatility of playing in the box and as an overhang safety allowed for Wisconsin to utilize him, John Torchio, and Kamo’i Latu in three-safety sets, which placed the best personnel on the field.
Torchio had himself a good game as well, wrapping up on a tackle on running back Ramon Brown for a one-yard gain. After some tackling woes in a few games this season, Torchio has re-established himself as a capable tackler, which matches well with his strong coverage skills.
Kamo’i Latu continues to enjoy a very underrated season after some early inconsistencies, as the Utah transfer recorded two straight run stops to force a fourth down, while laying a hit on tight end C.J. Dippre, although Maryland recovered the fumble.
After relying on their defensive line to get home early in the season, Wisconsin now has a strong foundation in all of their defensive position groups and as a result, is playing their best football on that side currently.