Wisconsin had more passing yards, and rushing yards, and made early statements on defense...yet lost. This sucks. How? HOW? HOW?!?!? Sorry, I got a little carried away there. But what happened yesterday still feels foreign for a Wisconsin Badger team that’s almost always found a way to win at home versus lesser opponents going back the last thirty years. Let’s take a look at a few of the things we think we might have learned.
The Offensive Line Got Pushed Around
Last week we saw Braelon Allen break away on a big play and Graham Mertz look comfortable in the pocket. We didn’t see that this time around. The line couldn’t have looked much worse in the trenches. They gave up a sack and only created space for one run that broke 10 yards. Braelon Allen went from a 10.6 yards per carry average down to 4.7 yards per carry for less than one hundred yards on the day.
Actually, unlike last week, none of the running backs were able to crack more than five yards. Furthermore, there were uncharacteristically preventable mistakes; penalties. The most overall penalties since 2018 vs Purdue, and the most since 2008 in a non-overtime game. The Badgers were penalized 11 times for 106 yards, nine of which were against the offense, and five of those against the offensive line.
In the end, the offensive line cost the Badgers more than half of their penalty yards. Big plays can’t happen if they’re getting called back consistently. Overall, it’s not just Wisconsin’s line, the whole team needs to clean up its act in that area of the game.
The defense wasn’t great but they didn’t lose the game
I’ll be honest I expected this to be a shutout for the Badgers. The new-look dime defense actually did its job for the most part. You could see Washington State Quarterback Cameron Ward's confusion trying to read the defense as he gave up two interceptions. The Badgers showed Ward a lot of different looks to keep the transfer quarterback not only guessing but mobile as he tried to avoid pressure. The Badgers were able to bring Ward down for two sacks on the day with the pressure helping take away his duel threat potential.
Washington State was only able to create a total of 200 passing yards with what little time Ward did have to sit back and create inside the pocket. As for the ground game, Wisconsin held the Cougars to 53 yards with a 2.4-yard-per-carry average on the day.
Penalties, special teams issues, and poor decisions were plentiful
We already talked about the penalties. I don’t care who you are, double-digit penalties will always make walking away with a W nearly impossible. Alabama somehow got away with a win while having more than 10 penalties in a game. They also got away with criminal levels of face masking and pass interference. Sorry, I digress.
Okay, back to Wisconsin. Special teams were certainly not an area of weakness I saw Washington State looking to exploit but it certainly hurt Wisconsin. The Badgers never were able to put their kicks between the goalposts and at the end that was enough of a gap to cost them the points needed to stay in the game. It wasn’t just missed field goals, the kicking team gave up a 73-yard return that helped set up the Cougars to secure the 3-points of separation that would eventually win them the game. But the biggest mistake might have come from Paul Chryst himself.
In what would have normally been a punting situation, coach Chryst decided that 4th and 2 just inside Washington State territory was a good place to run a play action that ultimately fell apart. It wouldn’t have been a problem if it didn’t cost Wisconsin a couple plays later when the Cougars marched down the field and into the endzone for a touchdown.
Overall, this was bad, really bad. The Badgers would be best to move on and never return to the horrors that this game tape contained. The matchup between Washington State and Wisconsin never happened...Ya hear me? What’s done is done and Wisconsin needs to move forward and focus on their upcoming opponents. There’s still a lot of football to be played. While we knew there would be growing pains with a new offensive playbook and somewhat new coaching staff this wasn’t how things were supposed to unfold, but what’s done is done.