The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the New Mexico State Aggies to the tune of 66-7, controlling the game from the opening drive and never taking their foot off the gas, even with backups in the game.
Here are the defensive grades from the game:
Defensive Line: B+
The Badgers’ defensive line looked good on Saturday, consistently making quarterbacks Diego Pavia and Gavin Frakes uncomfortable while allowing just 3.3 yards per carry on the ground.
Overall, the defensive line seemed disciplined when defending the run, covering both avenues on zone reads and filling in lanes correctly, overpowering the outmatched Aggies’ offensive line.
Nick Herbig recorded his fourth sack of the season, which was the lone sack for Wisconsin on the day, but the team had eight overall tackles for loss and five hurries.
However, Herbig did commit a false start penalty, gifting the Aggies a first down, while also getting run over by running back Jamoni Jones on a 12-yard gain while attempting to contain on the edge.
Keeanu Benton also had his second roughing-the-passer penalty of the season.
A name to watch on this defensive line is backup outside linebacker Darryl Peterson, who was seen opposite Nick Herbig on some third-down opportunities, and recorded a key pressure on Saturday to force a fourth down on a drive.
Additionally, defensive end James Thompson Jr. filled in well for starter Rodas Johnson when the latter left the game with an injury.
The linebackers had a solid game on Saturday, especially early, as they correctly filled in rushing lanes from the second level, which limited the run game at times.
While Maema Njongmeta, the team’s leading tackler through two games, only had three total tackles, the newly-appointed starter played well, recording a tackle for loss and an interception, and seems set at that inside linebacker spot.
Wisconsin #Badgers top five defensive player grades against New Mexico State, according to PFF:— Dillon Graff (@DillonGraff) September 18, 2022
• Nick Herbig (93.0) Elite
• Ricardo Hallman (90.2) Elite
• Keeanu Benton (88.6) Elite
• James Thompson Jr. (86.5) Elite
• Maema Njongmeta (86.5) Elite
Jordan Turner, Wisconsin’s other inside linebacker, had somewhat of an up-and-down day, and needs to continue strengthening his feel in zone coverage, as he was beaten on crosser routes with late reactions at times when diagnosing the play.
The task is doable for Turner, given his traits, but that aspect of his game needs to become more consistent.
While I wasn’t as impressed with Tatum Grass on Saturday when the backups were in, Jake Chaney seemed to have a solid game, recording four tackles, including a tackle for loss, and an interception off a deflection. Talk about turnover mayhem.
Overall, though, the linebackers did their job on Saturday and will be vital pieces to the defense in Week 4 against a strong Ohio State offense.
For this week, I’m grouping the entire secondary together because I believed both parts of the unit played great in limiting the opposing offense in Week 3.
Redshirt freshman Ricardo Hallman made the best play of the game, working against 6’3 receiver Kordell David, playing tight press-coverage before twisting his hips to adjust for the ball and making the one-handed interception.
What an insane play from Ricardo Hallman. pic.twitter.com/CW5J1xEreq— Ben Kenney (@benzkenney) September 18, 2022
Hallman wasn’t a one-play wonder, however, as the defensive back was the third-highest-graded corner in college football this past week with a 90.2 PFF grade.
Highest graded CBs from Week 3:— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 19, 2022
Jalen Kimber, Florida: 92.7
Greedy Vance Jr, Florida State: 90.9
Ricardo Hallman, Wisconsin: 90.2 pic.twitter.com/7jyN05hz1V
For the second-straight week, the Badgers’ secondary hasn’t faltered, despite being outmatched with size against opposing receivers, which is a good sign and a testament to defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard putting his players in favorable situations.
Additionally, there were four pass breakups by the defensive, with Hallman, John Torchio, Kamo’i Latu, and Jay Shaw recording one each, although the latter’s came on a dropped interception.
The secondary is going to face their biggest test yet in Week 4, when the unit faces off against Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., Julian Fleming, and Emeka Egbuka in the passing attack.