The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys 24-17 to end their season above .500 and win the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Jim Leonhard’s final game with the team.
Quarterback Chase Wolf made his first career start after three-year starter Graham Mertz entered the transfer portal, leading the Badgers to victory in a tumultuous game without several key players.
Here are the offensive grades for the Badgers against the Cowboys.
Chase Wolf completed 16/26 passes for 110 yards, one touchdown, and an interception.
Wolf began the game with a nice deep pass to Dean Engram on the opening drive to set up a potential redzone opportunity for the Badgers, but his wideout dropped the pass, forcing Wisconsin to settle for a field goal.
However, on the following drive, Wolf made a poor decision, telegraphing a deep crosser and completely missing a safety on the far side, resulting in an easy interception in the redzone.
Wolf made several nice throws on the run, which clearly was his comfort zone, resulting in the Badgers moving the chains, but often threw short of the sticks, hence the low yards per attempt(4.23).
Additionally, Wolf’s receivers didn’t do him favors with three drops, including two that could’ve led to touchdown opportunities.
But, Wolf was primarily uplifted by a strong rushing attack, as well as good offensive line play, which kept the game out of his hands for the most part.
Running Backs: A
From the beginning, it was clear that Wisconsin would attempt to win this game with their physicality on the ground, and they completed that objective with 258 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 5.5 yards per attempt.
The significant success came despite Oklahoma State’s efforts to sell out against the run, speaking volumes about the performances of the offensive line and the running backs.
Braelon Allen led the way with 116 yards off 22 carries, displaying nice patience, as well as the unique combination of power and speed, seeming to be near, if not at, 100% health-wise.
Chez Mellusi remained consistent with his 16-carry, 77-yard performance, while Julius Davis and Brady Schipper earned snaps at tailback with Isaac Guerendo in the transfer portal.
The majority of Wisconsin’s rushing attack returns in 2023 under a new offensive scheme with Phil Longo, as well as an offensive line returning several players.
Wide Receivers: C
The wideouts didn’t have a great performance, as Dean Engram, Skyler Bell, and Keontez Lewis each dropped passes, while Chimere Dike was the leading receiver with just 36 yards.
Engram had a nice pass from Wolf on the opening drive and couldn’t corral it in, while Lewis had a touchdown go through his hands on a diving attempt.
Both plays could’ve put the game away early, but instead kept the Cowboys within striking distance.
Dike and Bell did have an impact in the running game, with the former rushing for a 12-yard gain, while the latter sealed the victory with a 44-yard rush on a third down of the final drive.
Still, this is a position group that needs to improve in 2023 to benefit whoever earns the starting quarterback job for the Badgers.
Similar to the running backs, this position group has all key players returning for 2023, which could provide some stability after several players went for the NFL following the 2021 season.
Tight Ends: C
Hayden Rucci caught two passes for 28 yards and the lone passing touchdown of the game off a nice play design from Bobby Engram.
Rucci also played a key role in the running back with his blocking efforts, which will be important in Phil Longo’s offense next season.
The Badgers also got a glimpse of freshman tight end J.T. Seagraves, who caught the first pass of his career, and could be in line for a bigger role in 2023.
Jack Eschenbach caught two passes for 14 yards to wrap up the tight end unit.
Offensive Line: A
The offensive line had a great game against the Cowboys, finishing off the season strong after battling injuries throughout the year, which led to a variety of different starting lineups.
Michael Furtney, who returned from the transfer portal, started at left guard, while Tanor Bortolini and Trey Wedig took over at center and right guard, respectively.
The offensive line consistently created holes in the running game, especially toward the left side, which was clearly Wisconsin’s preference on the ground.
Additionally, the Badgers provided Chase Wolf with several clean pockets, allowing him to be comfortable, albeit against an Oklahoma State team without defensive starters.
But, the injury bug couldn’t escape the Badgers in this game either, as Furtney momentarily was in the medical tent, allowing freshman Joe Brunner to earn snaps, where he significantly flashed with a pancake on Chez Mellusi’s touchdown run.
Left tackle Jack Nelson looks to be a key building block for 2023, while the Badgers could have several younger players fighting for opportunity, such as Brunner, in a position group returning several key players.