While the Badgers started slow offensively, their defense was able to severely limit the Rutgers’ offense, even scoring a touchdown courtesy of Ricardo Hallman.
However, the run game kicked into gear, with the Badgers rushing for 223 yards on 5.1 yards per carry in a good effort on the ground.
Braelon Allen led the charge, as expected, rushing for 21 yards, 101 yards, and a touchdown in classic Braelon Allen style.
Quarterback Tanner Mordecai even got in the mix, rushing for 60 yards on nine carries, of which a majority were scrambles, showcasing his ability to extend plays.
However, the biggest takeaway on the ground didn't come from either of those two; instead, that designation goes to backup running back Jackson Acker, who rushed for 65 yards on 13 carries.
The biggest part of Acker’s performance? Consistency, as eight of his 13 runs went for at least five yards, with the running back utilizing his big-bodied frame and power-run abilities to move defenders back.
It was a statement performance for the running back, whose confidence has grown with the first significant volume game of his career.
“Yeah, I felt like I really got to show what I’m capable of moving forward,” Acker said. “I hope they I’m able to give some more playing time and show them even more.”
“Yeah, I thought I contributed well today.”
Coming into the game, Acker had a sense of what his role could be, but the 13 carries are significant. Why? Because that’s the exact average that Chez Mellusi had per game over the first four contests.
While Acker and Mellusi have far different styles, Saturday presented a good sign that the Badgers have another capable backup that is able to shoulder the load.
Allen gave his counterpart the sign of approval, praising Acker’s performance and effort in running hard.
“He did a great job,” Allen said. “I thought he ran very hard, very aggressively, and I think he does a great job of putting the coaching points that coach Baldwin gives us and putting them on tape. Obviously, this is kind of his first time getting real action as a tailback, and I think he played up to the standard that we expected him to.”
With Acker, the Badgers have two power backs who run with a level of aggressiveness, and Allen sees the semblance between the two.
“[Jackson’s] definitely downhill and powerful,” Allen said. “He’s mean. I would say we’re basically pretty similar in size. Our running styles are pretty similar as well.”
Coming into the season, it was to be determined what Allen’s role would look like, as offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s scheme is tailored more for change-of-pace backs. That’s why it was understandable that Chez Mellusi saw significant volume to begin the season alongside Braelon Allen.
However, with Mellusi injured, the Badgers don’t have that change-of-pace-back, instead going to Jackson Acker, a second power back, as their No. 2.
What does Longo think about his new-look offense?
Allen and Acker shared a hilarious moment with their coordinator on the sidelines, who acknowledged he never envisioned working with two power backs in the Air Raid.
“I asked Coach Longo if he ever thought he’d have two power backs in the Air Raid,” Allen said. “He said, ‘No.’
However, that won’t deter the Badgers, who clearly made it work on Saturday with over 200 rushing yards on the day.
“As long as we get the job done, I guess it don’t matter realistically,” Allen said after the game.
The Badgers have a crucial game on their schedule next weekend against the Iowa Hawkeyes in a matchup that could ultimately decide the fate of the Big Ten West this season.
Against a staunch Iowa defense, the Badgers are going to need to come out strong offensively, and that likely involves some key plays not only from Braelon Allen, but the emerging No. 2 Jackson Acker as well.