Beating Illinois State isn’t much of a surprise for Wisconsin, but shutting them out entirely? It’s not a surprise either but it is a positive sign to kick things off and a good omen of what can potentially come from this season for the Badgers. So what did we learn from this week one blowout? Well, that’s precisely what we aim to review in this article.
1. BRAELON ALLEN IS STILL HUNGRY!
Let’s forget about that first offensive drive. It never happened. It was just a warm-up. Sure Wisconsin has been practicing for months since spring ball began but we can forgive it all after what happened on the second play of the second offensive drive. Last season was no fluke. I don’t care that it’s against an FCS opponent, a 96-yard touchdown is a 96-yard touchdown. And boy was it a thing of beauty! (Chefs kiss into the air).
Allen had a dominant day aside from the big burst second drive score. He ate up 148 yards total, on 14 carries, for 10.6 average per carry, and two touchdowns. Even if you take out the 96-yard big play he still averaged 4 yards per touch on the ground. I know it’s early but Allen looked great last night. He’s so young, only an 18-year-old sophomore, but he’s clearly still wanting to prove he can do more.
Last year was no fluke. Or at least this opening game would have us believe that. There’s a lot of season still to go, but I can’t wait to watch what happens down the line. Keep feeding Allen! Maybe think about him as a Heisman candidate? Too soon? I don’t care and honestly, Allen probably doesn’t either but teams will have to respect him going forward.
2. THE BADGERS DEFENSE IS STILL DOMINANT!
Wow! Well done boys! Way to let them know early with a pick-six! 100 yards returned for points. It’s a school record ya know. I know...I know...But what about how Illinois State was able to slowly work its way deep into badger territory? Yeah, well what about it? As far as I can tell it’s only Wisconsin who marched into the endzone while the Redbirds laid an egg. LOLZ Thank you! I love terrible jokes. Sorry, not sorry.
Let‘s take a look at the numbers: 8 tackles for a loss, 50 tackles overall, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, and keeping Illinois State 3 for 11 on 3rd down efficiency. I suppose giving up 253 yards is somewhat of an eye-catching stat for this Badger unit that wants to fight for the crown of the best unit in the country. It doesn’t matter if that’s actually true but they do want to be in the conversation. Going forward Wisconsin will have to tighten up the loose ends inside the defense. But knowing how Leonard and Paul Chryst work there’s no doubt in my mind that both they and the players are in a room somewhere addressing those concerns right now.
Overall though it feels good to get out the opening week with a shutout. Keep it up Badgers, the Cougars of Washington State are sure to provide a much bigger test but I’m not going to be surprised if this unit ends up shutting them down too.
3. THE BADGERS PASS OFFENSE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS...
Look, the Badgers have never had a top 20 passing offense going for at least over twenty years according to sports-reference. I went all the way back to 2004 and for me, that was enough. The Badgers have had some okay years where they’ve put up more than decent numbers but we’ve really never had a top passing attack. The performance against the Redbirds doesn’t signal to me that things have completely turned the corner yet.
219 total yards passing is commendable for an opening weekend showing, Mertz did okay. He didn’t turn the ball over, completing 14 of 16 passes; he made some good throws including a 74-yard pitch and catch to Chimere Dike who would later help secure Mertz’s one touchdown on the day. But there’s still more to be revealed. This is a new system after all.
Wisconsin has plenty of time to cross the t’s, dot the i’s, and put a nice new polish on their fresh offensive system. There’s no need to show all their cards early or take too many risks. Low and slow might be the most efficient approach. As long as we can continue to see a confident progression without regression this all bodes well going forward. And what gives any Badger fan a right to demand a surgically efficient aerial assault from the opening weekend?
But as Wisconsin fans, we want to get down! So give us a reason to get out of our seats and ‘Jump Around’!