Last week the offense looked a bit suspect. However, it appears they improved some things this week. How do you feel about that side of the ball now?
Tyler- After three weeks Wisconsin actually ranks towards the top in a lot of advanced metrics, especially through the air. In fact, Wisconsin has the third highest passing down success rate after three weeks. NEVER would I have thought I would see that in 2022. Up front, I still think there are some issues. It looked better against New Mexico State but it’s New Mexico State. They are so bad. Sidenote, New Mexico State is actually a favorite in their week four game against Hawaii. Yes, the Aggies, laying points.
Ryan - I thought the Badgers did a great job of airing the ball out. Mertz now has six passing touchdowns in three games, where it took him nine games to do so last season. The rushing game is still a strength. Obviously, New Mexico State and Ohio State are not equal, so next week will be the ultimate test.
At times I truly felt bad for NMSU’s offense. How impressive was this defense yesterday?
Tyler - The defense was incredible. It literally looked like they were a step ahead of New Mexico State on every single play, if not two steps ahead. At times I did feel bad as I thought one of the New Mexico State quarterbacks might get seriously injured against that front seven. Overall, it was great to see how suffocating they were, and hope that performance gives them a lot of confidence heading into Ohio State.
Ryan - It was suffocating, as usual, only giving up 242 total yards and really only giving up traction on two drives. Three takeaways in the game - all interceptions and they now have seven interceptions on the season, from seven different players.
Coming into the season we didn’t know how much Maema Njongmeta and Ricardo Hallman would play, but both made great plays again Saturday. How impressive have those two been?
Tyler - Njongmeta has been huge for this defense thus far. I was honestly a bit surprised to see he won a starting job but you can see why through three games. Additionally, he seems to be out there nearly every down. I thought you could see Wisconsin rotate up to four inside backers especially early but both Njongmeta and Turner have been in there most of the critical downs. Hallman has been good as well, and it will be interesting to see who is on the field against Ohio State on Saturday. It feels like Ricardo Hallman has earned the right to be out there for three weeks.
Ryan - Njongmeta has been a spark for this defense this season, leading the team in tackles through three games. Hallman has also done a great job this season, stepping in for Alex Smith, who has been injured.
We got to see some other young guys in this blowout, did anyone stand out to you?
Tyler - Yeah, it’s only New Mexico State but I thought Myles Burkett came in and threw it well, and with a lot of confidence. It’ll be interesting to see how the Badgers handle his games throughout the rest of the season with his redshirt still being in the mix.
Ryan - Jake Chaney, who had four tackles in the game and intercepted a pass.
What are your overall takeaways from this team now that the non-conference play is finished?
Tyler - So far, I have been impressed with the passing game and disappointed in the run game. The good thing is though, you expect that run game to get back to being what it was last year and if the passing game keeps rolling like this you have a two-phase offense once again. Other than that, no real surprises for me. The defense has been great as usual, and special teams have been poor as usual. Penalties were better this week and they’ll have to be extra clean against Ohio State this week.
Ryan - Through the first two games, Wisconsin got off to slow starts and committed a lot of untimely penalties. In their final non-conference matchup, they got off to a quick start, scoring their first, offensive touchdown in the first quarter this season, and also tightened things up, only committing four penalties for 50 yards, compared to their 11 turnovers for 106 yards, a week ago. Cleaning up untimely penalties will go a long way, as they can derail drives, quickly. Clearly, the addition of Bobby Engram has helped the offense, as the passing game has been quite improved from last season.
Next up, is a road trip to Ohio State. How are we feeling?
Tyler - I’d be lying if I said I felt good about it. The defense has looked great but this Buckeye offense is a whole different animal that gives you a whole different sort of test than what Wisconsin has seen thus far. However, if Wisconsin can move the ball with the pass this could be a game where the Badgers hang around.
Ryan - I am cautiously optimistic, as I am every time we play Ohio State. If the Badger defense can play like they can and the offense can move the ball through the air, Wisconsin will have a chance.